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French Open 2004

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post #2 of 43 (permalink) Old May 18th, 2004, 07:41 PM Thread Starter
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Venus is back in business!By Benjamin Waldbaum
Thursday, May 6, 2004After a less-than-stellar performance during the first three months of the season, Venus Williams is once again a favourite for the French Open. With victories in Charleston and Warsaw, the former No.1 player in the world has shown that she still has what it takes to win on clay.

In the space of just three weeks, she has turned her season around and silenced the doubters who were beginning to question her ability to return to the top of the women’s game. Last year, after losing to little sister Serena at Wimbledon, an abdominal injury forced the winner of four Grand Slam titles (Wimbledon 2000, 2001, US Open 2000, 2001) to withdraw from the circuit for six months.

She returned in January for the Australian Open, but disappointed her fans with a string of surprising defeats. In Melbourne, she was eliminated in the third round (6/4, 7/6) by Lisa Raymond, an opponent she had beaten the three previous times they had met. In Tokyo, Venus forfeited her match against Chanda Rubin in the quarter-finals because of a muscle tear in her left leg. Then, in Dubai, she lost tamely to Svetlana Kuznetsova (6/3, 6/2). Finally, she conceded defeat to Elena Dementieva (6/3, 5/7 7/6) in Miami, again in the quarter-finals. By February 23rd, Venus had fallen to No.18 in the world, her lowest ranking since 1998. Looking back on those losses after her victory in Warsaw, she said "When I don’t win, it’s just not normal for me, so I tried not to be too hard on myself when I didn’t win those matches earlier in the year."

Venus’ persistence finally paid off on the clay circuit. In Charleston, she claimed the 30th title of her career, and her first since Antwerp in February 2003. Rallying from a set down, she blazed her way to victory against Conchita Martinez (2/6, 6/2, 6/1). This was the kick-start she needed, and she went on to record two more wins in the Fed Cup encounter with Slovenia in Portoroz.

On the back of these seven consecutive wins, Venus returned to Warsaw. The Polish capital was where she first felt her abdominal pains last year, leading her to pull out of the final against Amélie Mauresmo. This year though, she was fully fit, and it showed as she took revenge over Kuznetsova with a resounding victory in the final (6/1, 6/4). “I wanted to show everyone today that the girl in Dubai wasn’t Venus Williams,” she explained. Now back up to No.11 in the world (on May 3rd), with two trophies and eleven consecutive victories on the bounce on clay, Venus will arrive in Roland Garros full of confidence and ready to make a determined assault on the French Open title.

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post #3 of 43 (permalink) Old May 18th, 2004, 07:46 PM Thread Starter
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USATODAY - 05/18/2004 - Updated 12:47 PM ET

French Open: Venus Williams

Chat on Thursday, May 20, 12:15 p.m. ET

Four-time Grand Slam champion Venus Williams will seek her first French Open
title next week at Roland Garros. Williams, who reached the event's
championship match in 2002, has had an impact on tour far beyond her 31
career singles titles or the six Grand Slam doubles crowns she's captured
with her sister Serena. She has also redefined the sport's sense of style by
playing in dresses of her own design. Williams, 23, has also started her own
interior design company and had her own line of clothing with Wilson Leather.
Talk live with Williams about the terre battu at Roland Garros, her career and
other questions about tennis.

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post #4 of 43 (permalink) Old May 20th, 2004, 08:16 PM Thread Starter
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Silent Treatment: Serena Says She's Put Semifinal Loss Behind Her

Photo By Susan Mullane By Adrianna Outlaw

Serena Williams couldn't break the sound barrier emanating from a vocal crowd during her semifinal loss to Justine Henin-Hardenne at the 2003 Roland Garros.
Jeering Williams' correct questioning of inaccurate line calls and cheering her errors, the crowd that once served as a soundtrack to a dramatic duel became an active player in the plot that culminated with Henin-Hardenne rallying from a 2-4 deficit in the decisive set to defeat Williams and snap her streak of four consecutive Grand Slam crowns. Unnerved by the hostile howls echoing in her ears, Williams concentration cracked, her level of play dipped and she could not close out the match as Henin-Hardenne displayed grits guts and a perhaps a helping hand to score a 6-2, 4-6, 7-5 victory.

As she prepares to return to Roland Garros on Monday to begin her quest for a seventh major championship, Williams is making every effort to put her tearful exit on the terre battue behind her.

"The only thing I remember about last year is that I didn't win," Williams told Eleanor Preston of The Guardian. "I've been reading some articles about African-American history and a lot of worse things have happened. When I look at it like that, I'm spoiled."

The star of so many Grand Slam shows spent much of her time away from tennis auditioning for acting roles and learned that sticking to a script can be tougher than imposing her improvisational skills on the court.

"It's a little tougher in acting," said Williams, who may take time off from the fall tournament schedule to shoot a film. "It doesn't matter who you are in Hollywood, you still have to go out for the auditions. I went for this audition and I studied all day, all night, all week for this huge movie 'Be Cool', which is shooting now with Uma Thurman. I could not remember any of my lines. I went to read and I just went blank. I was so embarrassed. It was horrible."

Despite losing to Jennifer Capriati in straight sets in the Rome semifinals on Saturday — a defeat that snapped her streak of eight straight victories against her fellow Floridian — Williams said she's carrying ample confidence into Paris.

"I think I’m hitting a lot better, and I’m very satisfied with the way my game is going," Williams said. "Physically, it's more demanding on clay, but I haven't felt tired at all."

During her dominance of the WTA Tour, Williams won five of the last six Slams she's entered, beating older sister Venus in each major final. The derision directed at her during that dramatic Roland Garros loss to Henin-Hardenne echoed in her ears and Williams has heard criticism of her commitment to tennis throughout her career — ranging from charges that the Williams sisters frequent final appearances made the women's game boring to assertions that their absence from the sport created a decline in interest. Serena said she's learned to tune it all out.

"At first it was like, 'Oh, the Williams sisters, they're not winning, who are they?'," Williams said. "Then it's 'They win too much and they're always in the final.' Now it's 'Where are they, we need the Williams sisters, when are they going to come back?' What can I do? You've got to make yourself happy. I'm focused on me."

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post #5 of 43 (permalink) Old May 20th, 2004, 08:20 PM Thread Starter
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Laguna Niguel, california: How is your ankle doing and are you 100% for the start of the French Open?

Venus Williams: That's a popular question. Basically, I am optimistic about competing in the French.


Macomb, IL: What are your plans and expectations for this year of summer tennis, when will your clothing line and Serena's be available?

Venus Williams: This summer is Wimbledon and the Olympics so I want to take care of that. And U.S. Open too. As far as clothing line, stay tuned....real soon.


Tallahassee, FL: do you feel that your aggressive play will be the key to winning at roland garros this year, even though it may have caused you an ankle injury.

Venus Williams: My ankle injury was from a wet clay court. Yes, aggressive play is what wins matches.


Jacksonville, FL: Hey Venus! You've won a Grand Slam in doubles every year since 1999 with your sister. Will you keep that streak alive this year, or will you play it safe and keep the body healthy? Good luck!!!

Venus Williams: We love doubles. Love playing together. Definitely want to keep this streak alive.


Cesar from Dominican Republic: Are you wearing a new dress for the French Open? You gave us a sneak peek of it "lots of green" Can you tell us about it? You bring the fashion to court! We are pretty excited to see it!! Go venus!!!

Venus Williams: Yes there will be lots of green. You only have to wait three or four more days.


Bridgeport, CT: Hi Venus. It almost goes without saying that I think you're probably the most astute, thoughtful, talented stylish tennis player on the planet right now-- a true renaissance woman whose impact on tennis and humanity will be in the fashion of an Arthur Ashe. People always seem to be intrigued by you-what you're thinking, how to read your emotions, etc. Do you plan to ever write a personal memoir-later on in life to give us the real 411 on your experiences on the women's tennis tour? Also, do you think you'll make it back to New Haven this summer? Congratulations on a terrific clay court season--looking forward to seeing you hoist that Champions trophy high at the French! Thanks

Venus Williams: True to that ... but I don't think I'll ever be a tattle tale. There will be a right time to do it, but have to wait a few more years.

I'd love to make it back to New Haven.


Indianapolis: Venus, I am very proud of you! My question is; as a tennis father of a 12 year daughter who is already 5' 6" and who has a body type very similar to yours (long, beautiful legs), what advice can you offer me to keep her motivated to play tennis? Tony the Tiger

Venus Williams: Keep it fun. Set goals to work towards. Be consistent but not pushy.


Arlington,VA: Venus would you like to start a family someday and are you currently involved ?

Venus Williams: I'm at the point of my life where I don't have to think of a family. All I have to think about is my personal goals right now and my current family.


Johannesburg, South Africa: Although it's still relatively early in your career, if you were to retire tomorrow, could you give us the 3 most memorable matches you've played? Good luck at the French, Joe.

Venus Williams: My first doubles win with Serena in 97.
My Olympic win.
Mixed doubles win with Justin Gimelstob at Australian Open in 1998.


Fort Lauderdale, Florida: At this point in your career is tennis as much fun as it was in the beginning?

Venus Williams: In the beginning it was such an adventure. Everything was new and exciting. Now, I have done it all but I want to do more. It's still exciting.


Targovishte, Bulgaria: Who are your friends among the tennis- players?

Venus Williams: Serena Williams. I don't have the other players' phone numbers.


Austin, TX: What is the most difficult thing about being Venus Williams?

Venus Williams: Most difficult thing is I don't have enough time to do what I need to do and do what I want to do.


Warsaw, Poland: How do you prefer to be called: Venus or Vee?

Venus Williams: Venus


Arlington VA: What kind of cross training do you do? I have found yoga to be helpful in preventing injuries, but was wondering what kinds of cross training are most important to tennis players.

Venus Williams: I've done Yoga and done a bit of everything, like Pilates. I just try to mix it up so I don't get bored.


Entre Rios Villa libertador San Martin: Hi Venus , wath is your favorite sport (-Tenis ), Dou you like artistics gymnastics?

Venus Williams: Recently I've taken a liking to baseball and basketball. I used to like to surf back in the day. I'm too tall for gymnastics.


Milan, Italy: Ciao. Tell us something about your beautiful sister we do not know.

Venus Williams: I have four sisters. They are all beautiful. Serena is spontaneous. Lyn is creative. Isha is a brain. Tunde is unforgettable.


Fayetteville, NC: I am one of the biggest Williams sisters fans. My question is...are you, Serena, and the entire Williams family aware of the significant positive impact that you have had on black families particularly, our black youth? Your dad receives a lot of criticism from the media, but, as a black male with 2 daughters of my own, I truly honor Mr. Williams and respect his accomplishments. You will never meet most of your biggest fans in person, but I can assure you that we are out here and we are pulling for you to continue your outstanding success both on and off the tennis court. Best wishes to you and Serena at the French Open. God bless you!

Venus Williams: We hope that by trying to do our best we can inspire all people. Thank you for your encouragement.


Boston, MA: Venus, what is the shot that do you feel is your go-to stroke when the match is close?

Venus Williams: Every shot. Sometimes I think my speed.


Upper Marlboro, Maryland: How long will you continue to play tennis? Also, do you think the WTA is racially better now that you have started playing tennis professionally? Thanks.

Venus Williams: I think I'm going to play another nine years. I want to play until I'm 33.
I've never had any racial issues with the WTA Tour.


Houston, Tx: Where is your favorite place to visit while in Paris?

Venus Williams: I like the Paris Market. I like to walk for weight loss.


Oliver Springs, Tennessee: Will you consider wearing smaller ear ring, instead of the large ones you most of the time?

Venus Williams: Yeah I could wear small if they were 4-carat diamond studs. I'm taking donations. I like big earrings because I have a small head.


Saugus, MA: How hard is it for you to switch from the game's slowest surface to it's fastest in such a short period of time?

Venus Williams: It's easy.


Comment from Venus Williams: I like playing on all surfaces. I don't change too much of my game from surface to surface.


Tewksbury, MA: What was the last movie you saw and what movie do you want to see this summer?

Venus Williams: Last movie I saw was "Something's Got To Give."


New York City: As an athlete maintaining a high level of fitness, what would you say is your favorite guilty pleasure food?

Venus Williams: Where do I begin? I like donuts ... sour candies ...


Andrew from Waycross,GA: heavy are your current racquets (because I know they are customized)? What string and tension do you use?

Venus Williams: I don't know the weight. I try them out and choose what I like.


Taiwan: hi Venus,i'm from taiwan! do you have plan to come to Taiwan?There're lots of fans here!

Venus Williams: I'd love to ...where is the tournament?


Park Forest, Illinois: Have you ever thought about being in anymore video games?

Venus Williams: Yes. Definitely, in fact I have some great ideas that I hope will be out next year.


Edmonton, Canada: Hey Venus! I am a huge fan! Just wondering what CD's you are listening to currently

Venus Williams: I'm listening to some techno by Felix the Housecat.
Everything 311 is important to me.
I like the rapper Twister.


Philadelphia, Pa: Are you considering branching out and acting? Movies maybe?

Venus Williams: I'd love to and I think it would be fun, but I like music more. I'd like to write songs.


jupiter fla: tell us about 311

Venus Williams: 311 is my favorite band. I'm so disappointed that I missed 311 day on March 11. They never cease to amaze me, they are amazing. Look on my web site for photos of me with 311.

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post #6 of 43 (permalink) Old May 20th, 2004, 08:35 PM Thread Starter
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Venus is the favorite in Paris By Tom Clark, USA TODAY

When Venus Williams boards her plane tonight to Paris for the French Open, she'll be riding an 11-match winning streak on clay. Her ankle, which she sprained in her last tuneup, has recovered ? she's been practicing at home in Florida.
Williams' hot streak, which includes two titles on clay, and her good health (rare in women's tennis this year) make her a favorite to capture her first Grand Slam tournament since the 2001 U.S. Open when play begins Monday at Roland Garros.

Sister Serena, who will be playing her first major since winning Wimbledon last year, seems unprepared to go all the way after her loss to Jennifer Capriati last week in the Italian Open.

Defending champ Justine Henin-Hardenne isn't 100% with a lingering virus, and runner-up, Kim Clijsters has pulled out with a left wrist injury.

FenchToast: This guy made a summary of all I have been saying the past few days: 1. Venus injury was mild enough for her to recuperate and restart training within a week
2. Serena seems unprepared
3. Justine can't just show up and win RG without a tournament to prepare. I am sure she is training like crazy but there is nothing similar to a competition. She will be gone in the first week if her draw is tough.
4. Amelie always shocks in Paris. She is already making a fool out of herself complaining about the seeding. She is already putting pressure on herself even before playing one single match.

A healthy Venus will have no problem taking care of business. She owns Amelie, Capiati, Justine, Zvonareva, Schiaovone, Farina Elia, Davenport,..., everyone except Serena.

Let's the excitement starts!

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post #7 of 43 (permalink) Old May 21st, 2004, 01:17 AM Thread Starter
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Serena faces tough test on clay
French Open women's field lacks a favorite

Serena Williams will have to overcome both physical and mental hurdles in her bid to win the women's singles title at the French Open, says Tracy Austin of
By Tracy Austin
NBC Sports
Updated: 2:45 p.m. ET May 20, 2004

What makes this French Open so interesting is that there is no clear favorite for the women's singles title. Only a few times in recent memory has this Grand Slam been so wide open. Kim Clijsters, twice a finalist at Roland Garros, is out with an injured wrist, but the other top women will play and all have a shot at emerging the champion.

The No. 1 ranked player in the world and the defending French Open champion doesn't sound full of confidence when talking about her chances of a repeat at Roland Garros.

That's because the Belgian star has had a difficult recovery from a virus infection.

Henin-Hardenne says she is about 80 percent after being forced to rest for two weeks in April.

The French Open is probably the most trying physically of the four majors.

The points on the red clay can be quite long and it can get awfully hot.

One of Henin-Hardenne's biggest assets is her strength and fitness -- so not being able to fully prepare for the French Open I think takes a big chunk out of her chances to win it again.

On paper, Mauresmo has had the best clay-court season.

She posted successive tournament wins in Berlin and Rome.

History is on her side as the only previous players to achieve back-to-back victories in Berlin and Rome -- Steffi Graf in 1987 and Monica Seles in 1990 -- went on to win the French Open.

The world No. 3 is playing the big points well as we saw in her Italian Open final win over Jennifer Capriati.

Mauresmo plays well on clay, but the key with her is her struggles with the pressure to win in Paris.

There is the weight of expectation on the Frenchwoman's shoulders and in the past she has not been able to live up to that steep pressure.

She needs to come up with a major where she plays the phenomenal tennis she's capable of for not just a match or two, but for the entire fortnight.

We don't know what to expect from Serena, who is just back from almost a month off with a sore left knee.

That knee was operated on last August, keeping Serena sidelined until March.

Upon her return from the surgery, she won the first tournament (Miami) she played although the draw was much weaker than usual.

More recently Williams made the semifinals in Rome, but lost to Jennifer Capriati, whom she had beaten in their last eight meetings.

Serena and Jennifer have a real rivalry and the loss could give Serena a wake-up call in her comeback from injury.

And there is no doubt Serena can win any tournament when she puts her mind to it.

Venus has had a really nice clay-court season -- one she absolutely needed to have in order to go into the French Open with confidence.

She won two titles and has an 11-match winning streak on clay.

And the sprained ankle which forced her to withdraw from the German Open final appears to have healed.

Venus missed the last half of 2003 with an abdominal strain and her comeback included a few surprising losses earlier in the season.

I wouldn't make Venus a favorite, but if she shows the form on clay she displayed before the ankle sprain, she could win her first Grand Slam tournament since the 2001 U.S. Open.

Some recent positives for Capriati include making her first final (Rome) since New Haven last August and snapping an eight-match losing streak to Serena Williams.

I think a key factor for Capriati will be her mental outlook towards Roland Garros.

Her confidence level and how much she wants to win the title in Paris will come into play.

The sky is the limit for Capriati, who has the strength and the big weapons to pick up another French Open title, but her mindset has to be right.

Davenport has never been known as a phenomenal clay-court player, but she has won titles on the surface.

Davenport has played only the tournaments she has wanted to play this year, avoiding a long stretch in Europe leading up to Roland Garros.

That could have been a drain mentally on Davenport -- one that would have taken away from the positives of playing a lot on clay.

Davenport has a shot to win a title on the red clay, although this Grand Slam has never been her strong suit because her mobility gets tested.

The 47-year-old Navratilova will see her first Grand Slam singles action in a decade.

Navratilova last played singles at the French Open in 1994.

She asked for a wild-card for Roland Garros, where she won singles titles in 1982 and 1984.

Her last Grand Slam singles match was at Wimbledon in 1994, when she was a finalist.

Navratilova showed she can still compete in singles by playing at smaller clay-court tournaments earlier this spring.

As for her reasons for doing this I would theorize that one might be a desire to play singles at Eastbourne and Wimbledon this summer.

If that's the case, she probably feels the more matches she gets under her belt the better.

© 2004 MSNBC Interactive

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post #8 of 43 (permalink) Old May 21st, 2004, 06:26 PM Thread Starter
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Williams Sisters Elevated in French Seedings
Thu May 20, 2004 02:14 PM ET

PARIS (Reuters) - Serena Williams has been pushed up the seedings by French Open organizers from her world ranking of seven to number two just behind Belgian Justine Henin-Hardenne.

Frenchwoman Amelie Mauresmo, who would have expected to be seeded second following the withdrawal of world number two Kim Clijsters with a wrist injury, has been dropped to third seed to accommodate the 2002 champion.

Serena's elder sister Venus has also been boosted from a world ranking of nine to fourth seed.

In the men's seedings Wimbledon and Australian Open champion Roger Federer of Switzerland is number one, while U.S. Open winner Andy Roddick is second, Argentine Guillermo Coria third.

Spain's Juan Carlos Ferrero has been seeded fourth as he returns to defend his crown at Roland Garros.

The men's seedings follow the ATP world rankings.

The Williams sisters have been elevated under a policy women's tennis organizers use to protect the seedings of players who have dropped in the rankings due to injury.

Venus was moved from her then-world ranking of 11 to number three seed at the Australian Open earlier this year.

The sisters missed the second half of last season through injury.

Serena made a winning comeback from an eight-month injury layoff in April.

She made her return to tennis after knee surgery on March 26 in Miami and successfully defended her title at the NASDAQ-100 Open. The clay-court grand slam begins Monday.

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post #9 of 43 (permalink) Old May 21st, 2004, 09:41 PM Thread Starter
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Venus, Mauresmo lead contenders
Top 10 contenders plus 10 darkhorses

By Matthew Cronin

Mauresmo will have to produce her best yellowball ever should she face a Williams sister in the final.
The Top 10
Venus Williams: Who knows if her sore ankle is mending after her spill in Berlin. Her form has been good as anyone’s (including Mauresmo’s), but she hates playing hurt and if she’s not 100 percent healthy, she’ll play tentatively and go down. But if she healed quickly, No. 4 Venus is the hands-down favorite to win her first title.
Her first-week draw is dicey but negotiable: Tanasugarn (easy), Kostanic (simple with patience) and Pierce (a snap if she serves well). Then it’s potential back to back physical wars with Zuluaga and potentially Kuznetsova – should she survive Sprem/Myskina/Mandula. It’s the semis that will define her – sister Serena or Jen.

Amelie Mauresmo: Who would have suspected that the chronically injured veteran could go back to back in Berlin in Rome a la Steffi and Monica? Certainly not anyone who saw her shocking blowout at the hands of Serena at RG last year. If Amelie is willing to grind and somehow finds a way to impose herself without getting shaking and quaking on Court Centrale, than she can certainly win this tournament. She has a very nice draw until the quarters, where she’ll likely face Davenport. On paper, she should be able to take that contest on clay, but Lindsay doesn’t choke, so it will be extremely tight. Should she win that, it’s really a matter of whether Henin has survived till the semis and what kind shape the Belgian will be in when she gets there.

No elite player in memory as good as Mauresmo is has been as bad at home in their country’s big tournament. In many ways, a Mauresmo title run would be a downright miracle, but one that would turn history on its head.

Serena Williams: If knee holds up, she’ll be downright evil in seeking revenge for her ‘03 flameout against Henin. If not, any ‘ole game player could give her walking papers. After eight straight defeats of JCap, she finally lost to her American rival in Rome, which couldn’t have felt very good. On the bright side, Henin and Venus are hurting. On the dark side, she left her rhythm in Miami.
She has a very difficult first round with the capable lefty Iveta Benasova and a dicey second round with either Maria Kirilenko or Marie-Gayane Mikaelian. If she avoids an upset, she’ll eat up Nathalie Dechy, but then it’s a potential horror show against Conchita. Her quarter? None other than a newly confident J-Cap.
However, should this ’02 champ reach the semis, look out below.

Justine Henin-Hardenne: She’s always had a fragile constitution and now has just come off an aggressive battling mono-like virus. The defending champ is sure to fight to the last ball, but without the high-energy style that led her to three Slams crowns, a fit player could pin her early. However, if she gets four easy wins under her belt, a repeat is not out of the question. Justine will literally die trying.
Unless she takes ill again, her only real early challenge should come from Suarez in round four. Then it’s likely a hellacious Russian in the quarters and Mauresmo or Davenport in the semis. At least she doesn’t have to think about facing a Williams until the final.

Jennifer Capriati: All of sudden and possibly due to the grace of Gunhardt, Jen shocks Serena in Rome and then gives Mauresmo all she can handle in the final. Sure, she hasn’t been able to close against the elite in three years, but she’s nearly there and if she can recall her glory year here, she may be able to steal her second trophy. She has a very easy draw until the quarters, when she’ll get a crack at Serena again. A repeat of there ’02 semifinal classic here, this one will mean much, much more than Rome.

Lindsay Davenport: This SoCal vet doesn’t like the tournament and is not smooth dancer on clay, but she’s the healthiest elite player in field, which could mean a surprisingly deep run – to the semis. Just look at how easily she cruised to the final in Strasbourg. Lock her into the quarters against Amelie.
Svetlana Kuznetsova: With winter wins over Venus and Henin, this swarthy Russian looked like top-fiver. She’s till playing everyone tough, but with troublesome shoulder, she may not have enough juice to become first Russian finalist since Zvereva. But if she puts some new tread on her mag wheels, she a serious threat to reach the final. A sweet draw until she meets Sprem in R3.

Maria Sharapova: With Petrova and Zvonareva’s confidence down (or are they just leveling off), this Russian teen has a better shot at the final eight. She didn’t grow up on clay, but once she’s grooved, can blast with anyone. But can she survive tough Austrian vet Barbara Schwartz in the first round?

Anastasia Myskina: Arguably the world’s third best player in February, the Russian has since struggled with a bad toe. She’s played awful here in past, which is why she wants to win this Slam the most. But she seems to lack that little something when opportunity knocks (see her loss to Clijsters at the ’04 Aussie). If she gets past the revived Aussie, Alicia Molik in round one, she may have to topple Czech teen Barbara Strycova in round two. Then Petra Mandula in R3 and Sprem or Kuznetsova in R4? It’s not happening. Bye.

Karolina Sprem: Some weeks, this Croatian teen knocks our socks off. Other weeks (like when she was blasted by Clijsters in Fed Cup), she can’t keep a ball in the yard. But she’s quite gutsy and we like that. She’ll need it against Kuzy in R3.

Susan Mullane/Camerawork USA
Can Petrova rediscover her '03 magic?
10 dark horses
Nadia Petrova: Her ’03 semifinal run seems far away and the big Russian seems content with mediocre results. She has a top-five game, but not the head. However, she has an easy road till the fourth round, when Vera or Maria may await.

Vera Zvonareva: Vera has hit the wall outside of the top five. She’s needs to be much more aggressive and trust her game more. If she can knock our Sharapova and Petrova back to back in rounds 3 and 4, she’ll a rough quarter for anyone, including JHH.

Paola Suarez: Don’t count this heady Argentine out of the semis. She’s a much more calm and accomplished player than she was even two years ago and is capable of knocking out Henin in the R16.

Fabiola Zuluaga: Maybe her Aussie semifinal run was the result of an easy draw, but she can play on clay and should reach the fourth round where she’ll need to be at her very best to trip up Venus.

Elena Dementieva: Since no one is bothering to watch any longer, the tall blonde may just tear her way into the quarters. But when the spotlight is on, she’ll take Route 66 with her second serve and Lindsay will send her crashing into a toll bridge in R4.

Jelena Jankovic: Fast rising Serb will need to come in zoning because No. 15 seed Silvia Farina-Elia waist in her opening match. She’ll have to hit right through or she’ll be diced up.

Conchita Martinez: Look which old dame is seeded No. 20! Believe it or not, this spring chicken could face the very old dame Martina N. in round two, if Navratilova survives the consistent Gisela Dulko in R1. The Spaniard has a terrific shot at reaching R4, where Serena will be waiting.

Tina Pisnik: Bad result last week but if she’s healthy, the Slovenian has the spins and athleticism to take down Dementieva and Smashnova-Pistolesi. Then, there’s the tall order of Davenport in the fourth round.

Mary Pierce: Former champ a shadow of her former self everywhere but here. She should inch into the third round for a Court Centrale match against Venus, but there’s no way she survives that battle.

Petra Mandula: The cool Hungarian nabs a No. 29 seed and a potential third round match against the struggling Myskina. She’s reached the second week here before and can do so again.

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post #10 of 43 (permalink) Old May 22nd, 2004, 10:32 PM Thread Starter
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Serena Williams has designs on another French Open title

By JOCELYN GECKER, Associated Press Writer
May 22, 2004
PARIS (AP) -- Serena Williams calls it a tribute to the Moulin Rouge, but Paris has never seen anything like this.

Never shy about pushing the boundaries of tennis fashion, Williams came up with a look for the French Open boasting a white leather motorcycle jacket with ``Serena'' in gold across the back, a hot pink minidress and matching sneakers.

``I don't want to look mediocre,'' said Williams, who showed off her flashy ``French Open Collection'' Saturday, two days before play starts at Roland Garros. ``It's perfect, because I feel if I look good I'll play good.''

Once she's on the court, the leather jacket will come off, and attention will turn to tennis -- something Williams hasn't played much of in the past year.

The 2002 French Open champion and former No. 1 just returned from nearly a month off with a sore left knee. It's the same knee that required surgery Aug. 1, keeping her away from the tour until March.

During her time off, Williams designed dresses and signed a new Nike contract that could be worth close to $40 million over five years. She worked with the sponsor to create her tennis fashions.

``This is a Roland Garros special,'' Williams said at a news conference, flanked by mannequins wearing her creations and larger-than-life photos of herself. The Paris collection -- in shades of pink and red -- feature plunging necklines and high hems.

``This is what we call 'Moulin Rouge,' because of all the colors,'' Williams said, referring to Paris' best-known cabaret, which inspired the film starring Nicole Kidman.

``Tennis whites are boring, unless it's Wimbledon, where it's classy,'' Williams said in a later interview.

Down to seventh in the WTA Tour rankings, the 22-year-old said she feels as if she's starting over. But she doesn't find it daunting.

``I feel like I'm 17 or 16 years old again, trying to work my way back up again to the top position. I love seeing No. 1 by my name,'' she said. ``So it's fun, it's really fun.''

Time off hasn't dulled her game, Williams said.

``I'm hitting much better. So that's great news for me, probably not so good for other people,'' she said.

Williams reached the semifinals last year, losing to eventual champion Justine Henin-Hardenne in a match that left the American in tears. Williams questioned line calls, and the chair umpire ruled in her favor, but the crowd turned against her -- even cheering her mistakes. Adding to the tension, Williams questioned Henin-Hardenne's sportsmanship.

Williams insists she has blocked it all out, though.

``I really don't remember that match,'' she said with a smile. ``I remember playing, but I don't remember what happened. I remember I won a few matches, and then I remember being at home. I think I had a temporary memory lapse.''

Williams got a boost when the French Open announced seedings Thursday. She and big sister Venus were seeded five spots higher than their rankings, a move meant to lessen the effect of their long injury absences. Venus has battled abdominal and ankle injuries.

``With the Williams sisters on clay, given a lack of match play, you've got a lot of question marks,'' ESPN analyst Pam Shriver said.

Serena is seeded No. 2 behind top-ranked Henin-Hardenne. Venus, ranked ninth, was seeded No. 4, a spot below France's Amelie Mauresmo.

Serena dismisses the idea that she might be more devoted to clothes designing than to tennis -- at least for now.

``I could be doing something different,'' she said. ``But I love tennis. Ican't see myself right now, in the near future, giving it up.''

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post #11 of 43 (permalink) Old May 24th, 2004, 08:14 PM Thread Starter
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French crowd won't bother me again, insists Serena

May 23, 2004
PARIS (AFP) - Serena Williams resumes her love-hate relationship with the Paris crowd this week insisting that she has buried the bitterness surrounding her controversial French Open semi-final defeat against Justine Henin-Hardenne last year.

The American was widely jeered and broke down in tears after her loss to the Belgian number one with many observers believing that her hostile reception was a fallout from French opposition to America's role in the war in Iraq .

After the match, Williams accused Henin-Hardenne of cheating, although she retracted the claim the following day.

"I am not trying to win over the crowd. I haven't thought about the sort of reception I may get here, I am just focusing on the ball," said Williams on Sunday ahead of the second Grand Slam event of the season which starts at Roland Garros on Monday.

"You can't stay in that moment. You have to move forward and if I was thinking about what happened here I would not have gone on to win Wimbledon .

"I am just here to have fun and enjoy myself."

Williams, the 2002 champion here, will be playing her first Grand Slam event since capturing her second successive Wimbledon title last summer.

She has played just four events since returning from an eight month lay-off following knee surgery but won her comeback event by taking a third straight Miami title in March.

But since then she has been forced to withdraw from the Charleston event with knee inflammation and fell to American rival Jennifer Capriati in the semi-finals in Rome.

"This will be my first Grand Slam since Wimbledon and I am looking forward to it. I am anxious to play," added the second seed, who will take on the Czech Republic's Iveta Benesova in her first round match on Tuesday.

"I am not defending the title this year, so I feel as if I have nothing to lose.

"I feel good in practise and I always play better when I practise well. I am hitting the ball well and feel as if I am in the zone. Physically, I feel better then before and I am pretty close to 100-percent."

Always keen to make a fashion statement, the 22-year-old, already with six Grand Slam titles under her belt, will be wearing a white leather jacket onto the courts here with her name lasered onto the back.

But if her rivals think she is being increasingly distracted by off-court interests, she reckons they must think again.

"I think if they thought either myself or Venus were vulnerable, that has been washed away," she said.

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post #12 of 43 (permalink) Old May 25th, 2004, 01:03 AM
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Serena lets go of '03 rejection

By Karen Crouse, Palm Beach Post Staff Writer
Monday, May 24, 2004

PARIS -- It doesn't matter who you are. If you're an entertainer, rejection will find you. She'll get under your skin and eat away at the edges of your confidence, if you let her.

Rejection plays by no rules, recognizes no boundaries. She can be ruthless.

She has the penetrating gaze of someone who can clearly see that behind every entertainer is someone aching to be adored.

Rejection is so powerful that last year at the French Open it took Serena Williams' steel will and squeezed out salty tears.

After her meltdown at Roland Garros, Williams would go on to win Wimbledon and put some distance between her and rejection.

"I had to," she said Sunday, "or else... I would still be stuck in that moment. You've got to be able to move forward."

"Haven't thought about it," Williams said Sunday. "Doesn't matter to me because the only thing I'm focusing on pretty much is the ball."

That's what the Palm Beach Gardens resident wants everybody to think. The truth leaked out a little later, when somebody asked what is it about tennis that makes Williams want to put her acting career on hold.

"I like nothing more than walking out there and just having the crowd just clap and clap and clap," Williams said, her face lighting up like Broadway. "It's just an unbelievable feeling for me. It just takes my breath away. I think that's why I do so well, because I always look forward to going out there and just hearing them clapping... that is kind of huge for me. I just love it."

With actors it can get tricky figuring out where their performances stop and their personalities begin. Sometimes you listen to Williams and wonder if news conferences aren't just acting exercises for her, a chance to inhabit the role of tennis diva.

That said, there was nothing staged or contrived about Williams' riff on why she loves tennis. She bared more of herself in that answer than she has in any of her cutting-edge outfits.

In describing how much joy she derives from charming perfect strangers out of their seats, Williams made implicitly clear how painful their rejection is for her. If you live to hear the claps, what does it do to you when they boo?

Williams owned all four Grand Slam titles when she arrived at Roland Garros last year. Her confidence and popularity were cresting. An American public that once scorned her had grown to adore her. She appeared to have the world by its axis.

Then in the semifinals she squared off against Justine Henin-Hardenne, a French-speaking Belgian who wore the underdog label like a rose boutonniere. The crowd rooted ravenously for Henin-Hardenne, who was playing the fair-haired maiden to Williams' wicked witch of the imperialist West.

The contentious match turned on a point in the third set when Williams faulted on a first serve after Henin-Hardenne had raised her hand to ask for time. The chair umpire didn't see the Belgian's gesture, Henin-Hardenne didn't admit to making it and Williams didn't get her do-over. The injustice of it all ticked Williams off. Her raw frustration fueled the crowd's agitation and sealed her defeat.

The tears that followed were for a calendar Grand Slam and an audience lost. Williams didn't realize how much stress she had bottled up until her emotions gave way like the brakes on a car going downhill.

A year later, the pressure to win and win and win some more no longer is Williams' cross to bear. For the first time since 2002, the burden of success is somebody else's to shoulder. It belongs to Henin-Hardenne, who won the U.S. and Australian Opens while Williams was getting over knee surgery and grieving for her murdered half-sister, Yetunde Price.

"I feel like I have nothing to lose," said Williams, who plays her first Grand Slam match in nearly 11 months Tuesday, against Iveta Benesova. "I'm here to have a lot of fun. I have no pressure on me.... It's kind of cool when I just put pressure on myself and the media is not saying, 'Serena is going to take this title. She's going to win this and that.' It's kind of relaxing, actually."

She looked at ease. Not a muscle in her face tightened when a British reporter noted the tiny diamond band on the ring finger of her left hand and wondered if there was a romance behind it.

If there's anything Williams hates more than losing, it's people prying into her private life. But on this day she took no offense. Laughing uproariously, she turned the question into a punch line.

"If this was my engagement ring," she said, flashing the unflashy ring in the air, "then I would need to reconsider. I would seriously need to reconsider where my life would be heading."

Williams had her audience eating out of her hand. She looked radiant.

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post #13 of 43 (permalink) Old May 25th, 2004, 04:53 PM Thread Starter
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Federer ends French Open losing streak

May 25, 2004 wire reports
PARIS -- Top-ranked Roger Federer ended his two-year French Open losing streak by beating Kristof Vliegen 6-1, 6-2, 6-1 in the first round Tuesday.

Federer lost in the opening round at Roland Garros to Hicham Arazi in 2002 and to Luis Horna in 2003. But he dominated from the start against Vliegen, who lost in qualifying and made the draw only when another player withdrew.

Serena Williams and Venus Williams also advanced easily. The sisters played at the same time and during one stretch won a combined 16 games in a row.

No. 2-seeded Serena, jeered the last time she played at Roland Garros, drew warm applause after she beat Iveta Benesova 6-2, 6-2. No. 4 Venus looked tentative at times in her first match since being sidelined by an ankle injury this month, but still defeated Tamarine Tanasugarn 6-2, 6-4.

In sunny, 70-degree weather, Federer needed just 76 minutes on Court Suzanne Lenglen to advance. He hit 33 winners, never faced a break point and won 87 percent of the points on his first serve.

"It's a little bit of a relief after the last years," Federer said. "There has been so much talk if I would lose three times in a row at the French Open. I'm happy I'm still in the tournament."

Fabrice Santoro won the longest match -- by time -- in the Open era, beating fellow Frenchman Arnaud Clement 6-4, 6-3, 6-7 (5-7), 3-6, 16-14. The 6-hour, 33-minute marathon actually took two days because darkness forced a suspension Monday at 5-all in the fifth set.

Parisian fans turned against Serena Williams last year when she questioned calls during a semifinal loss to eventual champion Justine Henin-Hardenne. But the only stir Williams caused Tuesday was in response to her latest ensemble -- a pink two-piece outfit augmented by a headband, poofy hairpiece and hoop earrings the size of tennis balls.

Venus Williams lost the first two games, then won 10 in a row against Tanasugarn. Williams is seeking her fifth Grand Slam title but her first since 2001 and her first at Roland Garros.

The Santoro-Clement endurance test lasted 453 points, and Santoro won 235, including the last one on a backhand winner. He collapsed on his back in relief, and later sat at his chair and appeared to sob into a towel.

The previous longest match since the Open era began in 1968 was John McEnroe's five-set victory over Mats Wilander in a 1982 Davis Cup match that took 6:22, all in one day.

Clement, seeded 32nd, held a match point in the fifth set Monday, and the marathon continued for nearly two hours more after that. He found no consolation in making the record book.

"I don't care," he said. "What do I get, a medal?"

Two other seeded men lost. No. 7 Rainer Schuettler was eliminated by Xavier Malisse 6-4, 7-5, 6-4, and No. 29 Max Mirnyi lost to Julien Benneteau 7-5, 7-5, 1-6, 6-3.

U.S. men fell to 2-7 when Taylor Dent and Kevin Kim lost. No. 10 Sebastien Grosjean beat Kim 6-1, 6-1, 6-4, and No. 24 Jonas Bjorkman defeated Dent 6-3, 2-6, 6-3, 3-6, 6-2.

In women's play, 2000 champion Mary Pierce of France won 6-2, 6-3 against Claudine Schaul, who upset Lindsay Davenport in the final at Strasbourg on Saturday.

Russian women improved to 8-0 in the tournament with victories by No. 11 Svetlana Kuznetsova and No. 25 Elena Bovina, both in straight sets. Other seeded winners were No. 12 Ai Sugiyama, No. 16 Patty Schnyder and No. 17 Francesca Schiavone.

No. 26 Nathalie Dechy of France lost to countrywoman Stephanie Foretz 1-6, 7-5, 6-1.

Federer displayed the versatile arsenal of shots that makes him dangerous on all surfaces, including clay. In the final game alone he hit a lob volley to win one point, smacked a lunging forehand to save another, then pulled a forehand winner into the corner to close out the victory.

He celebrated with a fist pump, then shared a laugh with Vliegen at the net.

"I tried to focus on the first round and be as well prepared as I could and not put a huge amount of pressure of myself," Federer said. "I really tried to play as simple as I could."

Federer, the reigning Wimbledon and Australian Open champion, improved his record this year to 33-3, including 10-1 on clay. But his career record at Roland Garros is a modest 8-5.

Federer will next play Nicolas Kiefer, who beat Thierry Ascione 6-3, 6-2, 6-2. No. 19-seeded Martin Verkerk, the surprise runner-up last year, swept Julien Boutter 7-5, 6-3, 6-1.

The second day began with the tournament still abuzz about Andre Agassi's loss Monday to Jerome Haehnel.

"I didn't think he would lose," Federer said. "Obviously it makes you also think that anybody can beat you."

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post #14 of 43 (permalink) Old May 25th, 2004, 07:47 PM Thread Starter
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Tuesday, May 25, 2004

Venus, Serena both advance easily
Venus, Serena both advance easily news services
PARIS -- Martina Navratilova hit an ace Tuesday, a nifty achievement for a 47-year-old player at the French Open. She needed more than one.

Navratilova's Roland Garros comeback lasted barely an hour, ending with an opening-round loss to Gisela Dulko, 6-1, 6-3. The match was Navratilova's first in Grand Slam singles since 1994.

"I had some moments of brilliance," Navratilova said. "But they were few and far between, unfortunately."

The left-hander employed the same serve-and-volley tactics that helped her win 18 major singles titles, but she was often a step slow reaching shots. Navratilova won just 10 of 22 points at the net, struggled with her serve and was broken five times.

In the twentysomething division, Serena and Venus Williams advanced easily.

No. 2-seeded Serena, jeered the last time she played at Roland Garros, drew warm applause after she beat Iveta Benesova 6-2, 6-2.No. 4 Venus looked tentative at times in her first match since being sidelined by an ankle injury this month, but still defeated Tamarine Tanasugarn 6-2, 6-4.

Dulko, 19, was born the year after Navratilova won the second of her two French Open titles in 1984. And Navratilova missed opportunities against the teenager, converting only one of six break-point chances.

Navratilova led 3-2 in the second set before Dulko won the final four games.

"If you look at the score line, you'd say, wow, she got killed," Navratilova said. "But if you watch the match, I could have been up 4-3 in the first set. I couldn't convert game points -- that was the difference in the match."

In the next-to-last game, Navratilova stumbled and fell to the clay chasing a forehand into the corner. Dulko grimaced in concern, but Navratilova quickly rose unhurt.

Active in doubles since 2000, when she came out of retirement, Navratilova has said this will be her final year of competitive tennis. Her return this week drew complaints from at least two players that Navratilova took a spot in the draw that could have gone to a young player trying to establish herself.

"Did I diminish the tournament by playing out there today?" Navratilova said. "I don't think so."

Navratilova said she hasn't decided whether to play singles next month at Wimbledon, a tournament she won a record nine times.

Serena Williams played on center court at the same time her older sister was on Court Suzanne Lenglen, and neither match produced much drama. Venus lost the first two games, then won 10 in a row against Tanasugarn.

"I was a little stressed out too starting out and got a slow start," Venus said. "But so far, so good. Keep them short and simple."

She's seeking her fifth Grand Slam title but her first since 2001 and her first at Roland Garros. She declined to say whether she was hampered by pain in the ankle.

"If I was, I wouldn't let on," Williams said with a smile.

Parisian fans turned against Serena Williams last year when she questioned calls during a semifinal loss to eventual champion Justine Henin-Hardenne. But this time there were cheers, not jeers.

"It was really exciting to come back out there," Williams said. "I got out there and got nice applause. It was interesting. I didn't think anything about the semifinals. I just thought about playing my match."

The biggest stir Williams caused Tuesday was in response to her latest ensemble -- a fuchsia two-piece outfit augmented by a headband, poofy hairpiece and hoop earrings the size of tennis balls.

"I'm always trying to raise the bar on my outfits, especially here," Williams said. "It's a one-of-a-kind city, and you need to have a one-of-a-kind outfit."

Venus had 29 winners but also 29 unforced errors.

In other women's play, 2000 champion Mary Pierce of France won 6-2, 6-3 against Claudine Schaul, who upset Lindsay Davenport in the final at Strasbourg on Saturday.

The last Frenchwoman to win her home Grand Slam, Pierce is not considered a threat this year but did more than enough to excite the early fans on Center Court.

"It's just something really special about Roland Garros and playing here," Pierce said.

"It's just funny how it happens for me. When I start playing this tournament, it's amazing. It just brings the best out of me."

Russian women improved to 8-0 in the tournament with victories by No. 11 Svetlana Kuznetsova and No. 25 Elena Bovina, both in straight sets. Other seeded winners were No. 12 Ai Sugiyama, No. 16 Patty Schnyder and No. 17 Francesca Schiavone.

No. 26 Nathalie Dechy of France lost to countrywoman Stephanie Foretz 1-6, 7-5, 6-1, and Daniela Hantuchova continued her dramatic slide down the rankings, winning just four games against Japan's Shinobu Asagoe in a 66-minute, 6-1, 6-3 defeat at Roland Garros.

The loss means Hantuchova, 21, will likely drop out of the world's top 50 when the new ranking list is released in 13 days. She had been ranked as high as fifth in the world less than 18 months ago.

No. 13 Chanda Rubin of the United States withdrew Monday. Rubin has a recurring knee problem.

Information from Reuters and The Associated Press was used in this report.

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post #15 of 43 (permalink) Old May 25th, 2004, 07:52 PM Thread Starter
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May 25, 2004

© Victor Wood

Williams Sisters Victorious, Navratilova Falls

PARIS - Serena Williams needed just a little over an hour to open her 2004 Roland Garros campaign with a win, defeating Iveta Benesova, 62 62 on the second day of action in Paris. The 2002 champion stormed through the first set in only 24 minutes and finally put away the match in the 66th minute to improve to 22-4 at the event, which includes winning 13 of her last 14 matches at the event. Williams' only loss in her last three appearances came in last year's semifinals where she fell to eventual winner Justine Henin-Hardenne.

Benesova, a winner this year on clay in Acapulco and finalist in Estoril, was looking to pull off one of the biggest first round upsets in Grand Slam history, but couldn't overcome Serena's powerful baseline game.

Williams' second round opponent will be Russian teenager Maria Kirilenko, who defeated Switzerland's Marie-Gayanay Mikaelian, 75 76(5).

No.4 seed Venus Williams, a finalist in 2002, won her 16th consecutive match on clay with a 62 64 victory against Thailand's Tamarine Tanasugarn. Tanasugarn won the first two games of the match before Williams rattled off the next six to take the first set. The former world No.1 captured titles on clay in Charleston and Warsaw before suffering an ankle injury in her semifinal win against Karolina Sprem at Berlin.

Williams had to withdraw before facing Amelie Mauresmo in the Ladies German Open final, but showed no signs of problems with her left ankle against Tanasugarn. Williams will face Charleston semifinalist Jelena Kostanic in the second round after the Croatian moved through with a 64 63 victory against French wildcard Camille Pin.

"I think my feet were slow," Venus Williams said. "I was slow in general, making some errors. I had to kind of leave that behind in order for me to play the match."

Williams was were a special sleeve on her ankle she began wearing last week which helped take away some of the pain on her still recovering ankle.

"I just had the hardest time getting the swelling out," said Williams, regarding her recovery from the Berlin injury. "I didn't know what to do. I was passing by the treatment area and saw this sleeve, so I put the sleeve on and the sleeve saved my life.

"So now the sleeve is like my best friend. I will not part with the sleeve. The sleeve was the only thing that helped me. It kind of had the compression and just pushed everything else, then I was starting to recover."

47-year-old Martina Navratilova, back playing singles at Roland Garros for the first time in 10 years, couldn't escape the first round after falling to Argentina's Gisela Dulko, 61 63. Navratilova, a two-time champion (1982, 1984) was a wildcard into this year's event and was playing singles for only the third time this year. She fell to 0-3 on the year in singles after prior first round losses at Amelia Island and Charleston.

Dulko overcame a nervous start to use an array of groundstrokes and drop shots to change it up on the veteran American, converting 5-of-8 break point opportunities for the 62 minute victory - her first victory in a Grand Slam event.

2000 champion Mary Pierce, who suffered a surprising first round loss at last year's event, moved into the second round with a 62 63 win against Strasbourg winner Claudine Schaul. Pierce, who was also a Grand Slam winner in 1995 at the Australian Open, believes her game goes up a notch anytime she plays in Paris.

"It's just something really special about Roland Garros and playing here," Pierce said. "It's just funny how it happens for me. When I start playing this tournament, it's amazing. It just brings the best out of me."

Schaul was looking to branch off the career-best week she experienced last week in Strasbourg where she defeated four of the top five seeds at the event, including world No.4 Lindsay Davenport, for her first WTA Tour title.

In the only women's match that wasn't completed on Monday, Russia's Klara Koukalova won a second tiebreak to defeat popular young French player Tatiana Golovin, 76(4) 76(2). Late on Monday, Koukalova held one match point at 5-4 but was unable to put away the match and play eventually was halted at 5-5 due to poor lighting.

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