Pam Shriver's 4th RD picks
Venus puts injury worries behind her
Former WTA Tour pro Pam Shriver is providing ESPN.com with in-depth analysis throughout the French Open. Shriver, a tennis analyst for ESPN, was ranked as high as No. 3 in singles play. She won 21 singles and 112 doubles crowns, including 22 Grand Slam titles.
PARIS -- Venus Williams made the biggest improvement from the second round to the third round of all the women. She looked lost against Evie Domonikov with unforced errors and sloppy play. On Saturday, against a better opponent, Venus again came to net and her differential (more winners than unforced errors) was positive.
Based on that improvement, you can look at her as someone you can take seriously going into the second week. Her much-talked about injury (stomach muscle tear) appears to be behind her as she was serving 120 mph toward the end of the match, snatching the tournament record on the women's side from Nadia Petrova. Venus should be pleased with this match and it was nice seeing mom, and coach, Oracene Price not shaking her head after the match.
Fourth round picks
Serena Williams (1), United States vs. Ai Sugiyama (16), Japan
They haven't played in the past three years, which might be good for Sugiyama, who showed that she's not only fit but can handle the pace of the top players by defeating Kim Clijsters in the Scottsdale final. But going on Serena's annihilation of Barbara Schett 6-0, 6-0, it's hard to see Sugiyama winning.
Magui Serna, Spain, vs. Amelie Mauresmo (5), France
The last remaining French woman against Ashley Harkleroad's conqueror. Mauresmo has fallen at this hurdle a few times at the French -- last year to Paola Suarez. Because Serna's a lefty with lots of different spins and an all-court game, she poses problems for opponents.
But Mauresmo is 3-0 against Serna, with two of those matches being very close. Mauresmo's a better player than Serna. The question is how will she handle a second week at the French, where she's never won matches. She's been to at least the semifinals at all the other majors and never even been to the quarters here. Mauresmo is the favorite, but she's no sure thing.
Justine Henin-Hardenne (4), Belgium, vs. Patty Schnyder (19), Switzerland
One of the better matches in this round. I don't think her name's been uttered on the air except for results. She's a former top-10 player who beat Steffi Graf when Graf was at the top of her game. Schnyder has won big matches before so Henin-Hardenne will have to be playing well. It's another lefty-righty matchup. Schnyder, with Seles fading, is now the best left-hander in women's tennis.
I still think Henin-Hardenne will win the match. She lost in the first round last year, so now having won three matches, she is dangerous. She's been the best clay-court player the past two years along with Serena, so this is going to be a competitive match.
Petra Mandula, Hungary, vs. Chanda Rubin (8), United States
You'd never know that Mandula is a previous French Open quarterfinalist. She should be happy with this draw. You don't mind facing an eighth seed instead of one of the top four. So, Mandula is again a possible quarterfinalist because Rubin is streaky. Although in the last 12 months, Rubin has played fewer and fewer inconsistent matches.
Matches against someone like Mandula are a challenge because the pressure is on Rubin as the favorite. Because Rubin recently won in Madrid, give her the slightest edge but have an eye out for a possible upset.
Jennifer Capriati (7), United States vs. Nadia Petrova, Russia
Petrova is just blasting through her part of the draw winning her last five sets 6-0, 6-1, 6-1, 6-1, 6-1. You just have to sit up and pay attention when someone is playing that kind of dominant tennis even when they're playing a past champion like Capriati.
Capriati had such an easy match against Julia Vakulenko, I'm not sure we can even tell how Capriati is playing. But we'll find out against Petrova. She's dangerous, but her biggest issue is that she's had too many injuries.
Capriati looks to be through the last eight but will go into this match prepared for a real struggle.
Vera Zvonareva (22), Russia, vs. Venus Williams (3), United States
Last year, Zvonareva took a set from Serena. This year, she plays Venus, only she's now seeded 22. She's one of these improving Russian players who looks to be a constant fourth-round player, and in the next 18 months we'll find out if she's better than that. She's good. I'm not convinced she's going to be a contender in a major, but she's still a teenager and handles the big moments pretty well.
As mentioned earlier, Venus seems to have found a comfort zone. Based on her pattern that once she gets her teeth in a major she doesn't usually lose in the middle rounds, look for Venus to win.
Lindsay Davenport (6), United States vs. Conchita Martinez (24), Spain
The big question mark for Davenport is her toe with no day to rest. She really struggled with it in her match against Natalie Dechy. Evidently a nerve is inflamed in her left foot. She was limping noticeably at the end of the match, reminding everybody how little she's played on clay for several years. While she's won a lot of matches on clay this year, it's clearly her least favorite surface and the only major she hasn't won.
Conchita Martinez loves clay. We thought we'd written her off, and here she is in the majors still hanging around. Davenport is going to need patience here. Early in Davenport's career she lost every match to Martinez. It became a matchup Davenport hated. On paper, it's a possible upset. Martinez has not dropped a set the whole tournament.
Magdalena Maleeva (15) Bulgaria, vs. Kim Clijsters (2), Belgium
Kim Clijsters is playing as well as Serena, maybe better. She routed Suarez 6-2, 6-1. Clijsters is a good clay-court player and next faces Maleeva, who was last seen coming off the court looking completely wilted after playing Rita Grande. I think the veteran Bulgarian is headed home after this match.
Kim Clijsters is playing too well to not win this match. I'll be shocked if it's not Clijsters in the quarterfinals. Clijsters seems to be doing everything pretty well.