Upsets clear path for Clijsters
Upsets clear path for Clijsters
Jon Wertheim, SI.com
On Sunday, two of America's French Open hopes, No. 3 seed Venus Williams and No. 7 seed Jennifer Capriati, were sent packing. SI.com caught up with Sports Illustrated senior writer Jon Wertheim to get his take on these upsets.
SI.com: How surprising is it that neither Venus nor Capriati survived the fourth round of a tournament in which both have played in the final?
Jon Wertheim: Ironically, I think Venus losing is the lesser of the two upsets. First off, she lost to Vera Zvonareva, a player who is destined for the top 10. Plus, she really hasn't been herself this tournament and isn't nearly the player she was a year ago, let alone two years ago. Venus had already dropped a set to Evie Dominikovic, so when she loses on clay to a young baseliner like Zvonareva, it's surprising but not shocking.
Capriati's loss is shocking. She'd been playing well and, remember, won this tournament only two years ago. And the player who beat her, Nadia Petrova, isn't nearly the player Zvonareva is, or at least will be.
SI.com: Do you think Capriati became complacent after resurrecting her career and winning the Australian and French opens in 2001?
Wertheim: I do think Capriati became a little bit complacent. She hasn't won a tournament since the Australian Open last year, and her work ethic tends to go up and down. Also, she never really has learned to give opponents proper respect in terms of scouting them. She didn't tend to pick up on what Petrova was doing Sunday, and I think that hurt her as much as anything.
SI.com: It seems like Venus almost has given up in the face of Serena's four straight Slams. Has she lost that drive and begun to focus on other things?
Wertheim: I don't know what's up with Venus Williams and I don't think anyone does. After the loss Sunday she actually said she felt like she was making progress, which is just a bizarre comment to make by someone who used to win Grand Slams and is now going out in the fourth round. I think it had to have wounded her that Serena has won four straight majors, not necessarily that Serena has beaten Venus four times in a row, but just that Serena is doing so much of the winning. It'll be interesting to see how this plays out, whether Venus can regroup or if we've seen the last of her success -- because right now it looks like her game is really headed south.
SI.com: Are the American women entering the kind of clay drought that the American men long have been in?
Wertheim: I don't think the American women are going by way of the American men on clay. Chanda Rubin is still in this; Lindsay Davenport had a bad toe, so we'll sort of excuse her; Laura Granville, Venus, Serena -- it's not the same situation as the men, where once again by the second Saturday only one American, Andre Agassi, was left. Agassi is doing wonderfully, but he is 33.
SI.com: Who benefits most from the ousters of Capriati and Venus?
Wertheim: The big winner in Sunday's madness is No. 2 seed Kim Clijsters, who now plays Conchita Martinez for a spot in the semifinals and then the Zvonareva-Petrova winner in the semis. She certainly couldn't have asked for more than that. Clijsters is somebody a lot of people are picking to break out here, and it certainly seems like she has a golden opportunity. Serena, on the other hand, has to play Amélie Mauresmo and then likely Justine Henin-Hardenne and Clijsters -- the last three players to have beaten her. So if Serena can win this, she will really have made a statement. Clijsters should cruise to the final, then she'll just have to lay it out there and see what happens.
Sports Illustrated senior writer Jon Wertheim is in Paris covering the French Open for the magazine and will file regular reports from Roland Garros.