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tennisIlove09
Jun 2nd, 2003, 07:22 AM
Russian breaks Williams spell
June 2 2003
BY John Parsons in Paris
The Daily Telegraph

The year-long domination of Grand Slam tournaments by the Williams sisters was broken here last night when Venus, runner-up to Serena in the last four Grand Slam finals, was knocked out in the fourth round by the 18-year-old Russian, Vera Zvonareva.

Despite losing the opening set, Zvonareva, the only player apart from Venus to take a set from Serena in last year's French Open, exposed the American's lack of pace and punished her for 75 unforced errors, especially off the forehand and 12 double-faults.

Less than an hour later another talented teenage Muscovite, Nadia Petrova, 19, upset the 2001 champion, Jennifer Capriati, 6-3, 4-6, 6-3. It was not so much a case of "the Russians are coming" as the Russians have arrived.

Petrova, who pushed an increasingly bewildered Capriati to 7-5, 6-3 in Rome, was aggressive at every opportunity and was rewarded for persisting with the tactic when trailing 0-2 in the final set.

Zvonareva said after her 2-6, 6-2, 6-4 triumph: "So long as you believe, things can happen."

Venus, a forlorn figure, admitted: "I was really off." She added: "I didn't have the preparation I wanted."

Serena, who watched Venus's collapse of form, had earlier benefited from crucial double-faults in the first set as she overcame Japan's Ai Sugiyama. The defending champion will have to sharpen her game in the quarter-finals tomorrow against France's Amelie Mauresmo, who dictated from start to finish in her 6-1, 6-2 defeat of Spain's Magui Serna.

To add to American woes, Lindsay Davenport, trailing 6-4, 2-0 to Conchita Martinez, had to retire with a pinched nerve in her left foot.

Even Kim Clijsters and Justine Henin-Hardenne wobbled. Clijsters could hardly keep the ball in court in the first set but recovered to beat Magdalena Maleeva 0-6, 6-2, 6-1.

Henin-Hardenne, drained after holding a first set full of long rallies, looked in trouble when dropping the second, before celebrating her 21st birthday with a 6-3, 2-6, 6-2 defeat of the doughty Patty Schnyder.

Andre Agassi remains optimistic about regaining a title he won in 1999. Following his narrow second-round escape against Mario Ancic, he claimed he found his "comfort zone", striking the ball well and feeling pretty comfortable in a 6-2, 6-1, 7-5 defeat of Brazil's Flavio Saretta.

Martin Verkerk, the towering 24-year-old Dutchman with the crushing serve who could also thrive at Wimbledon, continued to build on his performances in Rome. He hit 22 aces, half of them in the first set, as he overpowered Germany's Rainer Schuttler, runner-up at the Australian Open, and next faces 1998 champion, Carlos Moya, who also shone in a straight-sets defeat of Jiri Novak.

Gustavo Kuerten, too, appears to be running into top form at the right time. He completing a 7-6 (7-1), 7-5, 5-7, 6-3 defeat of the temperamental Argentine, Gaston Gaudio. "This was a great win for me - my best for months," said the Brazilian, who is three times a former champion here.

Kuerten today meets Spain's Tommy Robredo, the shock 4-6, 1-6, 6-3, 6-2, 6-3 winner on Saturday over Lleyton Hewitt. The world champion was hardly devastated by the outcome, however, even though he was annoyed for letting slip a 3-0 lead and then a point for 4-1 in the final set.

Hewitt had never been optimistic about his chances. He came into the tournament after only six matches on European clay and is far more concerned about being in peak form to defend his Wimbledon crown.