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tennisIlove09
Apr 11th, 2003, 09:20 PM
Cold, Conchita can't stop Serena
Former tournament champ serves up a pair of upsets
By RICK NELSON
April 11 2003
The Post and Courier
GRACE BEAHM/STAFF


She turned to each corner of the court, bowed, and blew kisses. At her waiting golf cart, children and adults alike were lined four and five deep, nearly all extending caps or oversized tennis balls for her to sign. For several minutes, Serena Williams obliged. When she was finally driven away, no one complained. They only waved goodbye.

The world's top-ranked player already has captured the hearts of many at this Family Circle Cup, and Thursday she took another step toward capturing the tournament title as well. Another cold, breezy day did nothing to cool Williams, who ran her 2003 match record to 19-0 with a 6-2, 6-2 victory over No. 15 seed and two-time event champion Conchita Martinez.

"I thought I played all right," said Williams, who will play No. 6 seed Jelena Dokic today in the quarterfinals of the $1.3 million tournament. "I think there are a lot of things I would like to improve on, I'm going to have to improve on if I'm planning on winning this event. So I need to definitely get serious about it. But I think considering the conditions and everything, I played all right."

She played well enough Thursday to dispatch Martinez in just more than an hour, scoring 24 winners to her opponent's seven and booming in 73 percent of her first serves. Although Martinez is ranked 25th, Williams was on her guard against a former Wimbledon champion who has a strong record on clay.

"I played her three times, and twice we went to three sets," Williams said. "So there's definitely no easy way of playing Conchita Martinez, especially on clay. She's a clay-court specialist, and she's a Grand Slam champion. You can never take that lightly."

No. 3 seed Lindsay Davenport also advanced into the quarterfinals with a routine 6-4, 6-4 victory over No. 16 seed Clarisa Fernandez. No. 5 seed Daniela Hantuchova won a marathon first-set tiebreak en route to a 7-6 (12-10), 6-3 victory over Jill Craybas, and Dokic outlasted No. 13 seed Elena Dementieva 4-6, 6-4, 7-5.

Former champion Mary Pierce showed flashes of her old self in a 6-3, 1-6, 6-0 victory over No. 10 seed Amanda Coetzer. The unseeded Pierce actually pulled two upsets Thursday, earlier completing a 6-4, 1-6, 6-2 victory over No. 7 seed Anastasia Myskina that had been suspended in the third set by rain Wednesday night.

Martinez and Hantuchova also had to play a pair of singles matches Thursday because of rain earlier in the week that backed up the schedule.

"If anything, that was the hardest thing to do," Pierce said of the doubleheader. "Usually you play a match, you relax, and you prepare for the next day or the day after. But you know, I really feel good, and I'm just happy."

Pierce isn't the only surprise quarterfinalist. Vera Zvonareva, an unseeded Russian ranked 33rd in the world, moved into the round of eight by beating unseeded Paola Suarez 6-4, 6-4. And 17-year-old American Ashley Harkleroad reached her first main draw quarterfinal by dominating a highly-ranked player for the second time in as many days.

After committing just two unforced errors in a victory over No. 9 seed Elena Bovina on Wednesday, Harkleroad was almost as sharp against No. 11 seed Meghann Shaughnessy on Thursday. The Flintstone, Ga., native committed only seven unforced errors and showed strong baseline play in her 6-2, 6-2 win over Shaughnessy, a player who beat world No. 2 Venus Williams at Miami two weeks ago.

"I'm just happy about this week. I've beaten some good players this week," said Harkleroad, who had reached the main draw in just one of her previous four WTA starts this season. "I don't really know how to describe it, but it's been really fun for me, and it's been a big confidence booster."

In today's quarterfinals, Williams faces an opponent in Dokic whom she hasn't played this season. And all the players are hoping for a break from the 50-degree temperatures that have gripped the area this week.

"I'm really hoping it warms up, because I'm really cold," said Williams, who wore sweatpants in her victory over Martinez. "And I live in Florida, so I'm kind of like, come on. But it'll be all right. I can win in the cold."