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Williams can account for another blemish on her record
By HOWARD FENDRICH, AP Tennis Writer
June 4, 2003
PARIS (AP) -- No less an authority than Andre Agassi is impressed by Serena Williams' domination of women's tennis.
``When you look at sort of the X's and O's of how her game matches up to everybody else, she's bigger, stronger, faster, and hits the ball better,'' Agassi said.
``So, you know, it's hard to picture her losing.''
Believe it or not, Williams does drop a match every now and then, going 31-2 so far this season. She accounted for one blemish on her 2003 record already at the French Open. Now she gets a chance to account for the other.
The two losses came against Amelie Mauresmo (in Rome in May) and Justine Henin-Hardenne (in Charleston, S.C., in April).
The world's No. 1 player beat Mauresmo in the quarterfinals at Roland Garros, losing only three games, and will face Henin-Hardenne in the semifinals Thursday. The other semifinal pits No. 2 Kim Clijsters against unseeded Nadia Petrova.
Williams insists she takes no special pleasure in righting such wrongs on the court, saying: ``I don't necessarily feel revenge.''
But there's evidence to the contrary.
Just ask her older sister.
Venus Williams won five of the siblings' first six pro matches, including the 2001 U.S. Open final. And since? Serena is 5-0, including victories in the all-Williams championship matches of the past four Grand Slam tournaments.
And Serena did acknowledge it might have been in the back of her mind that her third-round opponent in Paris, Barbara Schett, upset Venus at the 2001 French Open. How did Schett fare against Serena? She lost 6-0, 6-0 in what amounted to a 40-minute workout for the defending champion.
That was part of a string of lopsided matches for Williams over the past 1 1/2 weeks. She's won all five outings in straight sets, dropping all of 19 games.
Her Grand Slam winning streak stands at 33 matches, sixth most in history. She's trying to become the first player since Steffi Graf in 1988-89 to win five straight majors, and there aren't too many people discounting her chances.
``Serena's looking really tough and she obviously wants it again this year,'' said eighth-seeded Chanda Rubin, who lost to Henin-Hardenne in the quarterfinals.
``That's the biggest thing on the clay: Who wants it the most? And who's willing to pay the price? So, if you're a betting person, you'd have to bet on her again.''
Even Henin-Hardenne acknowledges she has an unenviable task.
Sure, she's equipped with the most effective backhand in women's tennis. And, though just 20, she has plenty of experience at this level, having reached the final at Wimbledon two years ago and made the semifinals at a Grand Slam three other times.
``I'll have to serve well, I'll have to play my game, and I'll have to play a great match to beat Serena,'' the Belgian said. ``Last time, I won. But she's going to have great motivation to beat me again because she lost against me in Charleston.''
And she might have given Williams an extra tad of incentive, too.
By reaching the semifinals, Henin-Hardenne assured herself of moving up to a career-high ranking of No. 3 -- passing Venus Williams, who won't be in the stands to root for little sis. She left Paris after losing in the fourth round.