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Mase
May 8th, 2003, 06:04 PM
Capriati, Clijsters into quarterfinals at German Open


May 8, 2003
BERLIN (Ticker) - Fourth-seeded Jennifer Capriati rolled into the $1.22 million German Open quarterfinals on Thursday with a 6-2, 6-3 victory over Nathalie Dechy of France.

In preparation for the French Open, Capriati will seek her fifth successive semifinal appearance when she faces Russian Elena Likhovtseva, who rallied to beat Magui Serna of Spain, 5-7, 6-4, 6-4.

"The score didn't tell the true tale," Capriati said. "It was pretty difficult, even more than yesterday. I just played really well, but she's a tough opponent. She's very persistent."


The 26-year-old American has suffered from poor health this season. Capriati started the year with opening-round losses in Sydney and the Australian Open while recovering from eye surgery to remove sunspots. She reached the final at Miami but withdrew from Charleston due to strep throat.

"It's a little bit difficult pacing yourself going towards the French," she said. "But it's not like I've peaked at any time during the year so far, so I have a lot left in me and I'm not going to peak too soon."

Playing her first WTA Tour event in more than a month, top-seeded Kim Clijsters recovered from a 2-5 deficit in the first set and ousted Colombian qualifier Fabiola Zuluaga, 7-5, 6-3.

"At 5-2, I decided to just go for it and keep the ball short and keep focusing on her backhand," said Clijsters, playing on the WTA Tour for the first time since a semifinal defeat to Serena Williams at the Nasdaq-100 Open in Miami in late March.

"I was happy to close it out (on her serve) because I was hitting a few double-faults again in that second set. Fabiola is a very good clay-courter, and in the beginning I couldn't read her serve and had difficulty returning and reading her game."

The Belgian did participate in Fed Cup two weeks ago, helping lead her country past Austria with a pair of singles wins.

The 19-year-old Clijsters next faces Slovakian Daniela Hantuchova, who again rallied, 4-6, 6-4, 7-6 (7-2), to dispatch Marie-Gaianeh Mikaelian of Switzerland. Hantuchova also had a three-set match against Barbara Schett in the second round.

Fellow Belgian and No. 3 seed Justine Henin-Hardenne eliminated Patty Schnyder of Switzerland, 6-2, 6-3.

"It was a good match and I'm pretty happy with the way I played, but I was a little bit frustrated because sometimes I lost my concentration," Henin-Hardenne said. "At the end of the match, she started playing much better and it was a good fight.

"I like this surface and it's not difficult for me to find a good rhythm. I was very patient today, especially in the long rallies. I didn't go for a winner when I couldn't. It was a very good result."

Vera Zvonareva of Russia, who won her first career title last week in Bol, Croatia, prevailed after losing a first set to Eleni Daniilidou of Greece, 7-5, 4-6, 6-4.

Henin-Hardenne and Zvonareva will clash in the final eight.

Fresh off winning her first title of the year in Warsaw, fifth seed Amelie Mauresmo of France defeated Israel's Anna Pistolesi, 6-3, 6-2.

Mauresmo made history here in 1998 when she became the first qualifier to reach a Tier I final. She won the title three years later.

In the quarterfinals, Mauresmo plays Iroda Tulyaganova, who overcame eighth-seeded Jelena Dokic of Yugoslavia, 4-6, 6-2, 7-6 (7-0).

"I had a chance to win the match, especially after winning the first set and doing well at the beginning of the second," Dokic said. "I think the fact I gave away the second so easily made it difficult because she got more confidence and played better and better."

First prize is worth $182,000.