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Family Circle Cup 2003

S. Williams Tries to Extend Streak on Clay at Family Circle

By PETE IACOBELLI
The Associated Press

CHARLESTON, S.C. (April 6) -- Here's some bad news for the WTA Tour -- Serena Williams is looking forward to playing on clay this week at the Family Circle Cup.

Williams, 17-0 this season with victories at the Australian, Gaz de France and Nasdaq-100 opens, doesn't think the different surface will slow her down.

"Actually, clay, I think, is better for your knee because the hard court actually wears your body out,'' said Williams, ranked No. 1 in the world since July 8. "So it'll be easy. ... I'll be happy.''

Williams played for the first time here last year. She was ranked seventh in the world then and lost to Patty Schnyder in the quarterfinals.

Few could have guessed that Williams was only weeks away from starting her "Serena Slam'' -- she holds all four Grand Slams titles -- at Roland Garros.

Her preparations for a French Open defense start on Daniel Island.

"It was just a really nice atmosphere and a nice feel, and it was kind of cool,'' Williams said. "And I definitely look forward to going back.''

Others entered this week are Jennifer Capriati, who won the 2001 title; Lindsay Davenport; Justine Henin-Hardenne and defending champion Iva Majoli.

Williams has had an up-and-down history at this event. She was committed to play in 2000, but withdrew because South Carolina flew the Confederate flag atop its Statehouse dome. The flag has since been removed, although the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People has continued its economic boycott of the state.

The civil rights group plans to protest the flag at this year's tennis tournament.

When Williams arrived to play a year ago, she was met by an enthusiastic crowd that did not seem concerned with her defiance of the NAACP's boycott.

"People were actually cheering for me to win,'' she remembered. "And it was a lot of African-Americans who came out.''

With her perfect start, Williams has been asked whether she can go undefeated.

"You have to understand, I don't expect to reach that because I mean if I do, that would just be unbelievable,'' she said.

Martina Navratilova came the closest with an 86-1 mark in 1983.

Williams has met lofty goals before. After withdrawing from the Australian Open in 2002 with an ankle injury, Williams told herself she would win the other three Grand Slams. With all four titles in her trophy case, Williams gave herself a more daunting goal.

"I wanted to set my goals high,'' she said. "Whatever happens, happens.''

And Daniel Island looks like a good, pressure-free place to keep the streak going. Williams says the softer clay will help her rebound from the difficult hard-court season so far. She has practiced on clay courts at her father's home.

"I'll be, you know, running and just sliding and playing lazy tennis because on the clay I just tend to lay back. I love playing on that surface,'' Williams said.

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post #2 of 29 (permalink) Old Apr 7th, 2003, 02:21 PM Thread Starter
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Tough road for Serena; injury sidelines Seles
By RICK NELSON
April 6 2003
The Post and Courier

Serena Williams wants to go undefeated this year, but she faces a tough test this week in the Family Circle Cup.

The No. 1 ranked and top-seeded Williams could meet defending champion Iva Majoli in the quarterfinals and No. 5 ranked and third-seeded Lindsay Davenport in the semifinals in the $1.3 million tournament on Daniel Island.

Davenport could have a tricky quarterfinals meeting with 2002 finalist Patty Schnyder, a left-hander whose array of shots can be tough to handle.

The tournament didn't do Anna Kournikova any favors, pairing her up with veteran clay-court specialist Conchita Martinez in the first round for the second year in a row.

Martinez knocked Kournikova out of the 2002 tournament.Seles withdraws from Cup

CUP from Page 1D

On the other side of the draw No. 2 seed Justine Henin-Hardenne could be on a collision course with fourth-seeded Jennifer Capriati in the semifinals.

For them to get there, Capriati first would have to get past a possible quarterfinals matchup with No. 5 seed Daniela Hantuchova. For Henin-Hardenne, seventh-seeded Anastasia Myskina could be waiting for her in the quarterfinal.

Tournament officials had to do some shuffling when No. 8 seed Monica Seles withdrew because of a left foot injury.

Seles, ranked 12th in the world, has been bothered by a left foot stress reaction she suffered more than a month ago while practicing. The injury forced her to withdraw from the Indian Wells and Key Biscayne tournaments.

She made the Family Circle Cup finals in 1997, and the semifinals in 1998 and 2000.

"I had hoped my foot would be fully recovered in time for the Family Circle Cup, but I am sorry to say it still does not feel 100 percent," Seles said.

Jelena Dokic is seeded sixth, and Schnyder is now the No. 8 seed. The top eight seeds receive first-round byes.

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April 6, 2003
Serena Williams Looking Forward to Event in South Carolina
By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS


Filed at 3:54 p.m. ET

CHARLESTON, S.C. (AP) -- Here's some bad news for the WTA Tour -- Serena Williams is looking forward to playing on clay this week at the Family Circle Cup.

Williams, 17-0 this season with victories at the Australian, Gaz de France and Nasdaq-100 opens, doesn't think the different surface will slow her down.

``Actually, clay, I think, is better for your knee because the hard court actually wears your body out,'' said Williams, ranked No. 1 in the world since July 8. ``So it'll be easy. ... I'll be happy.''

Williams played for the first time here last year. She was ranked seventh in the world then and lost to Patty Schnyder in the quarterfinals.

Few could have guessed that Williams was only weeks away from starting her ``Serena Slam'' -- she holds all four Grand Slams titles -- at Roland Garros.

Her preparations for a French Open defense start on Daniel Island.

``It was just a really nice atmosphere and a nice feel, and it was kind of cool,'' Williams said. ``And I definitely look forward to going back.''

Others entered this week are Jennifer Capriati, who won the 2001 title; Lindsay Davenport; Justine Henin-Hardenne and defending champion Iva Majoli.

Williams has had an up-and-down history at this event. She was committed to play in 2000, but withdrew because South Carolina flew the Confederate flag atop its Statehouse dome. The flag has since been removed, although the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People has continued its economic boycott of the state.

The civil rights group plans to protest the flag at this year's tennis tournament.

When Williams arrived to play a year ago, she was met by an enthusiastic crowd that did not seem concerned with her defiance of the NAACP's boycott.

``People were actually cheering for me to win,'' she remembered. ``And it was a lot of African-Americans who came out.''

With her perfect start, Williams has been asked whether she can go undefeated.

``You have to understand, I don't expect to reach that because I mean if I do, that would just be unbelievable,'' she said.

Martina Navratilova came the closest with an 86-1 mark in 1983.

Williams has met lofty goals before. After withdrawing from the Australian Open in 2002 with an ankle injury, Williams told herself she would win the other three Grand Slams. With all four titles in her trophy case, Williams gave herself a more daunting goal.

``I wanted to set my goals high,'' she said. ``Whatever happens, happens.''

And Daniel Island looks like a good, pressure-free place to keep the streak going. Williams says the softer clay will help her rebound from the difficult hard-court season so far. She has practiced on clay courts at her father's home.

``I'll be, you know, running and just sliding and playing lazy tennis because on the clay I just tend to lay back. I love playing on that surface,'' Williams said.

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Supportive Venus: Serena (17-0) has 'great chance' for perfect yearBY MICHELLE KAUFMAN
[email protected]
April 3 2003
Miami Herald

If Venus Williams is jealous of, or discouraged by, her sister Serena's success, she isn't saying.

The elder of the sisters sounded as supportive as ever Wednesday on a conference call to promote this weekend's JP Morgan Chase Tennis Challenge at the Naples Bath and Tennis Club, a benefit event for their mother Oracene's charity, the OWL Foundation.

Venus, who lost in the quarterfinals of the NASDAQ-100 Open last week and has lost to her sister in the finals of four straight Grand Slam events, said she wouldn't put it past Serena to go undefeated this season. Serena won the NASDAQ final Saturday, stretching her win streak to 17-0 this year. She is 60-4 since March 2002.

''I think Serena has a great chance to do it,'' Venus said. ``It's not easy to win every time, but other sports have had unbelievable records, so why not tennis?''

Both Williams sisters will play in the Naples charity event Saturday. Serena will play Monica Seles in a 1 p.m. singles match, followed by a doubles match between Serena- Jana Novotna and Venus-Seles. The players will also attend a $250-a-plate gala, at which Roberta **** will perform.

The OWL Foundation (short for Oracene Williams Learning Foundation) helps fund educational programs for children with learning disabilities.

Venus Williams insisted the NASDAQ defeat has not dampened her spirits.

''I just had a bad day,'' she said of her loss to Meghann Shaughnessy. ``It's just one tournament. I'm moving on and getting ready for the clay season and the French Open.''

ARGENTINES PUMPED

The Davis Cup quarterfinals are this weekend, and Argentina is determined to avenge three straight losses to Russia, including a heartbreaker in last year's semifinals.

The Argentine team ( David Nalbandian, Gaston Gaudio, Mariano Zabaleta and Lucas Arnold) hopes to take advantage of the slow clay at Club Atletico River Plate at Buenos Aires. Russia's lineup is Marat Safin, Mikhail Youzhny, Yevgeny Kafelnikov and Nikolay Davydenko.

In other quarterfinals, Australia plays Sweden, France plays Switzerland and Spain plays Croatia without Goran Ivanisevic, who cut his heel on a seashell walking on Miami Beach two weeks ago.

EASTER BOWL UPDATE

South Florida will be well represented at the Easter Bowl junior tournament, April 11-19 at Palm Springs, Calif. Thirty-seven players from the area, including No. 3 seed Josh Cohen of Weston (18s) and No. 5 seed Lauren Sabacinski of Pembroke Pines (14s), are in the 768-player field. Thirteen-year-old Lauren Albenese (Coral Springs) is the youngest girl in the 18s.

USTA NAMES COACHES

Eight coaches, including three South Floridians, were named to the USTA's High Performance staff, which oversees young players at training centers in Key Biscayne and Carson, Calif. Dean Goldfine (Aventura), Francisco Montana (Miami) and Roger Smith (Fort Lauderdale) will be based at the Tennis Center at Crandon Park.

Goldfine's alumni include Todd Martin, Aaron Krickstein and Mary Joe Fern?ndez. Montana, a former pro, coached Alex Bogomolov. Smith competed at the 1996 Olympics for the Bahamas. Other coaches named were Steve DeVries, Ricardo Acuna, Kelly Jones, Mike Sell and Martin Van Daalen.

SCHEDULE NOTES

Next year's NASDAQ-100 will be played March 24 to April 4. The International Tennis Championships in Delray Beach are moving from early March to mid-September, just after the U.S. Open. The Open will end Sept. 12, 2004, and Delray will begin Sept. 13.

The new Delray date might be attractive to players who would rather stay in the United States than travel to the Bangkok or Bucharest events that typically follow the U.S. Open.

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Family Circle Cup, Charleston)
Serena Williams meets the Mayor of Charleston and receives a proclamation making it "Serena Williams day" in Charleston after she spent time with kids on Monday at an event called "Tennis in the City"

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Even now, Serena is underrated
By GENE SAPAKOFF
April 13 2003
The Post and Courier

Serena Williams' mother didn't call a news conference to complain. She didn't drop a soap box, climb aboard and shout.

She was simply responding to a question with the refreshing honesty that runs in the family.

"Considering what Serena has accomplished in the last 15 months," I asked, "aren't you surprised she doesn't have more endorsement deals?"

Oracene Price didn't hesitate.

"She would have more if she was a guy," said the proud woman who is mother, coach and confidant to the two most dominant tennis players in the world.

Serena has deals with McDonald's, Doublemint gum, Close-up toothpaste, Puma and Wilson, among other major companies.

Still, she is underrated and underexposed on the national sports scene. She should have more endorsements. She should lead "SportsCenter" more often.

If she were dominating baseball, golf, football, NASCAR, basketball, hockey or men's tennis the way she is ruling women's tennis -- how can you argue? -- she would be on TV more often than "Seinfeld" and "Friends" combined.

At 21, Williams extended her 2003 start to 21-0 on Saturday with a 6-1, 7-5 victory over Lindsay Davenport in the Family Circle Cup semifinals to set up a championship match today with Justine Henin-Hardenne.

EVERYTHING YOU WANT

She has won the last four Grand Slam singles titles, a "Serena Slam." Only her older sister Venus poses a serious threat to her lofty perch.

This week in Charleston is an abridged version of what makes Williams everything you want in the marquee draw for a popular sport. She has been mostly overwhelming on the court and charming between matches. She signs autographs. She does charity work. She speaks her mind.

"I'm really exciting," she said last year, nailing the key to her appeal. "I smile a lot, I win a lot and I'm really sexy."

She was asked this week what Charleston tennis fans can do to get Venus Williams to play with her in the Family Circle Cup.

"Pray," Serena said.

'NEVER SATISFIED'

Ashley Harkleroad on Saturday was asked what it will take for her to defeat Williams.

"Probably for me to grow about five more inches and put on about 100 more pounds to hit the ball a little bit harder," said the 17-year-old American who surprised her way into the Family Circle Cup semifinals. "No, I don't know. I mean, she's playing really well right now and she's unstoppable."

Note that this is far from Williams' favorite surface. Her power game is better suited for hardcourts or the lawn at Wimbledon than clay.

But she won on red clay at the 2002 French Open.

And how about her adjustments this week to her only appearance of the year on green clay?

"I'm never satisfied," Williams said Saturday. "I'm pretty much insatiable."

That's what separates No. 1 from all the others.

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Unbeaten Serena Takes On Dokic In Charleston Tonight


Photo By Susan Mullane By Richard Pagliaro
04/11/2003

Serena Williams is undeniably the most complete player in women's tennis, but there's one thing the top-ranked Williams appears incapable of accomplishing on the tennis court — losing.


Yesterday, the architect of the Serena Slam deconstructed Conchita Martinez's clay court game in a a 6-2 6-2 victory to advance to the Family Circle Cup quarterfinals in Charleston. With the win, Williams raised her record to 17-0 and will meet Jelena Dokic tonight for a spot in the semifinals.

The winner of four consecutive Grand Slam crowns started the season by setting an ambitious — and historic — goal for herself: to complete the 2003 campaign undefeated. Three months have passed and the top-ranked Williams' pursuit of perfection is not only progressing as planned, it appears entirely possible she can complete her quest though Williams herself smiled at the thought after yesterday's victory.

"Can I win every match I play this year? I don't think so, but that's my goal," Serena said with a smile.

The 21-year-old Williams won eight of the 13 tournaments she entered last year and concluded the season with a 56-5 record.

Martina Navratilova registered the best single-season record in the Open Era when she registered an 86-1 record and captured 16 tournament titles in 1983. In 1989, Steffi Graf compiled an 86-2 record and won 14 tournament titles. Graf won 31 consecutive matches to start the 1989 season.

With the exception of the Australian Open semifinals — when Williams trailed Kim Clijsters 2-5 in the final set and fought off a pair of match points before battling back to complete perhaps the greatest comeback of her career by conquering Clijsters 4-6, 6-3, 7-5 to reach the Australian Open final — the woman who has won 28 straight Grand Slam matches hasn't been severely tested this season.

As the gap widens between Williams and the rest of the WTA Tour, she continues to refine her game and develop both her court sense and fashion sense. Yesterday, Williams wore some retro socks with a pompom attached at the heel.

"They're like my little puffs, my pompom puffs," Williams said. "They were really popular back in the 80's. So I kind of brought that whole fashion trend pompom
wearing socks back. I think that it's really cool. Now I see it in the stores all the time."

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From the Bob Larson Tennis International Newsletter:

Charleston: So Many Matches, So Little Time

The rain that has fallen on Charleston is hard on the players. It's hard on the staff. It's hard on us, too, as we wait for matches to happen and are never sure what's going to come up.

But wow, does it makes for stories on a Thursday when they're trying to get back on track. Even though the rain tried once again to slow things down on Thursday morning.

Three second round matches remained to be completed. One was already underway, with Mary Pierce up a break in the final set against Anastasia Myskina. It didn't take long for Pierce to complete a 6-4 1-6 6-2 win, putting Pierce back in the Top 40 but ending Myskina's winning streak at five.

#15 seed Conchita Martinez needed hardly longer to knock out Lucky Loser Tathiana Garbin; the score was 6-2 6-4. But #5 Daniela Hantuchova, who really didn't need a long match on a day when she was supposed to play two (especially given how exhausted and mopey-looking she seems to be these days), found herself in one anyway. She barely beat Tatiana Panova 6-2 4-6 6-3.

Next up on stadium court was the match between Lindsay Davenport and Clarisa Fernandez. Martinez's win meant that Fernandez had to win to make it into the Top 25. But she didn't even threaten Davenport, who hardly looks like a player who has been off clay for three years. The #3 seed advanced 6-3 6-3, and Fernandez will have to settle for #26.

Or maybe lower, because Vera Zvonareva seems to be set on making a move. She took out Paola Suarez 6-4 6-4, and will finally be moving into the Top 30.

But Meghann Shaughnessy won't be moving above her current #19 ranking. Ashley Harkleroad pulled off her second straight win over a Top Twenty player, beating Shaughnessy 6-2 6-2. She'll be shooting up from #101 to about #75.

Going nowhere at all in the ranking is Serena Williams; you can't get above #1. But she's increasing her lead over soon-to-be-#2 Kim Clijsters; it's nearly 2400 points following her 6-2 6-2 win over Conchita Martinez.

Fortunately for Daniela Hantuchova, she didn't face one of the bigger names in the Round of Sixteen. Jill Craybas is a very solid green clay player, but weapons she has none; Hantuchova won her third and fourth sets of the day to reach the quarterfinal 7-6 6-3.

And Mary Pierce showed no ill effects of having played an earlier half-set as she topped Amanda Coetzer 6-3 1-6 6-0.

If Elena Dementieva were going to beat Jelena Dokic, this would have seemed the time: Dokic is in pretty crummy form, and Dementieva had looked pretty good in getting this far. And, for a while, it looked like Dementieva might pull it off; she was up 5-4 in the third. But Dokic has won their last four meetings (Dementieva last beat Dokic at New Haven 2000, when Dementieva was at the top of her game and Dokic still a work in progress), and this didn't break the streak. Dokic won the last three games to pull out a 4-6 6-4 7-5 win. That means that Dementieva will not be returning to the Top 20. But Dokic has a chance to return to the Top Ten -- though she has to beat Serena Williams to do it.

The day ended with a final near-shock as Nathalie Dechy went up 6-2 2-0 on Justine Henin-Hardenne. Then Henin-Hardenne woke up. She reeled off five straight games, and dominated the third set as well, and finally won 2-6 6-3 6-2. It's interesting to note that only five seeds are in the quarterfinal -- but they are the five highest seeds.

That got things back on schedule, at least in singles. Doubles was harder. It was even more behind, and the rain in the morning didn't help. Several teams had to play two matches, and the last match of the night (Garbin/Petrova vs. Dementieva/Krasnoroutskaya) didn't start until nearly 11:00 p.m. local time. Fortunately, many of the contests were fairly quick. Alicia Molik and Martina Navratilova had one of the tougher contests, but advanced in three sets over Barna and Noorlander. Patricia Tarabini and Caroline Vis were able to handle Clarisa Fernandez and Nicole Pratt, but then had to play a second match -- and this time, they faced Davenport and Shaughnessy and were thumped 6-2 6-0. Elena Bovina had a crummy singles result here, but she had no trouble in the first round of doubles as she and Rennae Stubbs beat Coetzer and Jessica Steck -- who last year made the semifinal here -- 6-1 6-0; they would go on to beat Myskina and Selyutina 7-5 6-3 in a night match. And Ashley Harkleroad continued her sudden success (or Daniela Hantuchova her doubles struggles) as she teamed with Mashona Washington to beat Hantuchova and Jelena Dokic 7-6 6-2. #1 doubles team Ruano Pascual and Suarez got off to a surprisingly slow start on their favorite surface against Samantha Reeves and Milagros Sequera (who continue to look as if they might be going places), but they raised their game to pull out a 7-6 6-0 win. Janette Husarova is no longer player with Elena Dementieva, but Conchita Martinez proved a good replacement; they beat Meilen Tu and Maria Vento-Kabchi 6-0 6-4. Also through were #2 seeds Cara Black and Elena Likhovtseva, who beat Bedanova and Tulyaganova 6-4 7-6. That final match, between Garbin/Petrova and Dementieva/Krasnoroutskaya, ran too late for us to await the result (we've found that writing stories while asleep is not a very successful endeavor); the final score should be found in today's edition of World News.

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World's No. 1 cruises to win in opening match

BY RICK NELSON
Of The Post and Courier Staff
She can't possibly win them all, can she?

Going undefeated for an entire year is the longest of shots in tennis, but when Serena Williams has her groove on, it's easy to think anything is possible.

The world's No. 1 player hardly broke a sweat Wednesday as she cruised past unseeded Dally Randriantefy 6-3, 6-0 in her opening-round match in the Family Circle Cup on Daniel Island.

Williams capped the victory by blowing kisses and waving to the stadium crowd, which saw her pound the overmatched Randriantefy into submission with powerful serves and ground strokes.

But the scoreboard told only part of the story. The win improved Williams' match record to a perfect 18-0 this year, moving her another small step toward her goal of going undefeated in 2003.

"It would take a lot of work mentally," she said. "You have to think really, really tough and fight extremely hard. I think that's going to be tough for me because I always like to do different things."

One of Williams' strengths is her aggressiveness, but she seemed too eager to put shots away early in the match. She made some poor shot choices, including a high volley she took in the backcourt instead of letting the ball go out, and fell into a 1-3 hole in the first set.

"I started a little slow," she said. "I made a few too many errors, and the only reason I lost those games were because of my errors. I felt that if I could just cut back a little on that, I'd be able to get back in the groove."

That's exactly what Williams did, measuring the 95th-ranked Randriantefy like a heavyweight champion does a weaker opponent, and applying one body blow after another. She didn't even pause for a rest between sets, winning the final 11 games to finish off Randriantefy in 54 minutes.

It wasn't her sharpest performance of the year, but there are few players who can approach her skill level. She even sounded much more mature at 21 than she did last year, when she lost in the Family Circle Cup quarterfinals to Patty Schnyder.

"I think every match, mentally, I've been focused," she said. "Maybe not physically or technically, but mentally I think I've pretty much been there."

After the match, WTA Tour officials surprised Williams by presenting her with a trophy commemorating her "Serena Slam." She is just the fifth player to hold all four major tournament titles at the same time, joining tennis greats Maureen Connolly, Margaret Court, Martina Navratilova and Steffi Graf.

"To be one of the five who were able to do it in the history of tennis, if you really take time out to think of it, it's special," she said.

Williams already has won three tournaments this year, increasing her career total to 22 singles championships. She has been ranked No. 1 for 40 consecutive weeks and won $11.2 million in prize money.

With all that hardware, will it be hard to find a spot on her shelf for her new trophy?

"I'll have to take one of those U.S. Open trophies out, move it aside," she said.

For now, Williams moves on to the third round, where she will try to take another step toward the longest of shots.

"I'm having the time of my life right now," she said. "I feel like I'm just beginning almost, so it's a great feeling for me."

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Serena gets first loss behind her
By Pam Shriver
Special to ESPN.com


CHARLESTON, S.C. -- It was a strange match in the Family Circle Cup championship on Sunday as Serena Williams' perfect run ended with a loss to Justine Henin-Hardenne 6-3, 6-4.

Serena Williams started off looking good with a 3-0 lead and then lost six games in a row. She only won a handful of points in those six games. I just don't remember her doing that -- especially since she's started this great run.
s

Former WTA Tour pro Pam Shriver is providing ESPN.com with in-depth analysis at the Family Circle Cup. Shriver, a tennis analyst for ESPN, was ranked as high as No. 3 in singles play. She won 21 singles and 112 doubles crowns, including 22 Grand Slam titles.


Henin-Hardenne just sat back waiting for Williams to make errors. After the way Williams played against Lindsay Davenport the day before, I would never have picked Williams to lose today. She can lose to Justine Henin-Hardenne, but not the way she did today.

The word is that Williams was pretty dismissive of the loss in the press conference afterward -- acting like it wasn't a big deal.

But the win does boost No. 4 Henin-Hardenne to even a slightly higher level though her rank stays the same. The Belgians continue to climb. Kim Clijsters is projected to replace Venus Williams as the No. 2 player when the rankings come out on Monday. Henin-Hardenne did what no one has done since fellow Belgian Clijsters last November. As a matter of fact, Williams' only losses in the past six months have been to Clijsters and Henin-Hardenne.

It's good for Serena Williams to get the pressure off instead of going into the French Open and Wimbledon season with a long undefeated run. Once she's dealt with the loss, she'll need to keep focused on staying healthy and strong. She's prone to problems with knee tendinitis. She just needs to be sure not to give any hungry opponents an opportunity to beat her by letting her conditioning slip.

And although this is a Tier I tournament, she'd much rather have the first loss of the year here than a few other places on the tour like the Australian or French Open.

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Henin-Hardenne Ends Serena's Unbeaten Start at 21

By PETE IACOBELLI
.c The Associated Press

CHARLESTON, S.C. (April 13) -- Serena Williams is capable of losing, and everyone on the WTA Tour can thank Justine Henin-Hardenne for reminding them.

The Belgian emphatically ended Williams' 21-0 start to the season by beating the world's No. 1 player 6-3, 6-4 Sunday for the Family Circle Cup title.

"This doesn't change anything about the great champion that Serena is. But it means that today we could see that we can do these things against her, and she can be frustrated, too,'' Henin-Hardenne said. "I think it's good for the other players that we can see that.''

Williams' last loss came against another Belgian, Kim Clijsters, in the 2002 season-ending Tour Championship in November.

She issued a bit of a warning to future opponents.

"Sometimes you need to lose,'' Williams said. "I'm so motivated now. I can just feel it coming on again. So you've got to watch out.''

What was perhaps most stunning about Sunday's final at the clay-court event was the way the momentum turned after Williams won the first three games.

All of a sudden, her fourth-ranked opponent won six games in a row, taking 23 of the last 26 points in the first set. With Henin-Hardenne's smooth strokes right on target, she also overcame a 2-0 deficit in the second set.

"My whole game was like 9,000 notches down,'' Williams said. "I didn't serve well, I didn't return well, I didn't hit well. You know, it's just one of those days.''

The Belgian entered the match with a 1-4 career mark against Williams, who won a so-called Serena Slam by winning the last four major tournaments in a row: the French Open, Wimbledon and U.S. Open last year, and the Australian Open in January.

That streak led to talk on tour that Williams might be able to get through 2003 without a loss. But she repeatedly has said a perfect season was a lofty goal she never expected to reach.

"I think you guys dwelled on it more than I did,'' she said Sunday.

Williams showed some shakiness in the semifinals against former No. 1 Lindsay Davenport, blowing a big second-set lead.

Henin-Hardenne made Williams pay for errors, running down shots into the corners and forcing the American to go deeper into points than she wanted.

"I was a little bit nervous at the first,'' said Henin-Hardenne, who lost to Williams' older sister Venus in the 2001 Wimbledon final. "But then she began to make some mistakes.''

It's Henin-Hardenne's second title of the year and improved her match record to 21-4. She won a tournament on hard courts at Dubai in February, beating Jennifer Capriati and Monica Seles in consecutive matches.

On Sunday, Williams dropped her racket in frustration after putting a forehand into the net at 3-3 in the second set. She hit long two points later to fall behind 4-3. In the final game, Williams hit a lazy backhand approach into the net to end it.

The clay might have dulled her serve a bit, giving the swift Henin-Hardenne more of a chance to get to balls. Williams had nine aces against Davenport, zero Sunday.

Henin-Hardenne's plan was to keep Williams moving, changing pace on her shots the way a baseball pitcher changes speeds.

It worked perfectly.

"You ask yourself, 'Why did she have all these mistakes?''' Henin-Hardenne said. "Maybe it's because all these balls were coming back at her, she was running all over the court and she didn't have any solutions to her problems.''

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post #13 of 29 (permalink) Old Apr 14th, 2003, 01:10 PM Thread Starter
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(Family Circle Cup, Charleston)
Serena brings the beautiful Lalique crystal trophy presented to her by the WTA Tour to her post match press conference

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(Family Circle Cup, Charleston)
Serena Williams shows the trophy to signify the "Serena Slam" which the WTA Tour presented to her on court after her 2nd round win on Wednesday

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Serena Williams reacts after being presented with a trophy by the WTA tour for winning the past four grand slam events, Wednesday, April 9, 2003, after Williams defeated Dally Randriantefy of Madagascar 6-3, 6-0 in the second round of the Family Circle Cup in Charleston, S.C.

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