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V.S. May 3rd, 2004 04:26 PM

German Open 2004
 

V.S. May 3rd, 2004 04:32 PM

Women's Look Forward: Week of May 3
Posted on 5/2/2004 at 1:50 PM

Women's Look Forward: Berlin



Suddenly, life is looking very interesting again. After weeks of watching player after player disappear with injuries, personal problems, exhaustion, or who-knows-what, we're seeing players come back. And the place they're coming back is Berlin.

That translates into a field with seven of the Top Ten. Justine Henin-Hardenne is still recovering, and Lindsay Davenport is on her annual unofficial protest against red clay, and Serena Williams is still resting her knee, but Kim Clijsters is making her return to WTA action here as the #1 seed. Amelie Mauresmo is #2, Venus Williams is seeded #3 as a result of her special seeding (which, admittedly, is looking more and more justified -- but is Venus really going to play after Charleston, Fed Cup, and Warsaw?), Anastasia Myskina makes her return to WTA action as the #4 seed, Nadia Petrova makes her return at #5, Jennifer Capriati arrives at #6, Elena Dementieva is back in action at #7, and Ai Sugiyama takes the #8 seed. Those eight are the only players with first round byes, too, so the players ranked from #11 on down will be very busy.

Interestingly, with so many top players in action, the tournament is only mildly strong in the mid-ranked players. Vera Zvonareva will make yet another attempt to hit the Top Ten as the #9 seed (barring withdrawals). Chanda Rubin is still out, so Svetlana Kuznetsova (who, on recent form, seems much more like a real Top Ten threat) is seeded #10, Paula Suarez #11, Silvia Farina Elia #12, Patty Schnyder #13, Conchita Martinez #14, Jelena Dokic #15, and Anna Smashnova-Pistolesi #16. Francesca Schiavone, who made it into the Top 20 last week, goes unseeded.

There are quite a few other noteworthy unseeded players. Karolina Sprem will be trying to hit the Top 25 here. Fabiola Zuluaga is the next unseeded player behind Schiavone. Mary Pierce will be playing her first red clay match of the year. So will Dinara Safina and Nathalie Dechy. Maria Sharapova will be playing her first clay match of the year of any kind. Petra Mandula will again be looking for a career high. Other noteworthy players in the draw include Eleni Daniilidou, Magdalena Maleeva, Elena Bovina, Meghann Shaughnessy, and Daniela Hantuchova.

Plus one name playing her first clay match since Roland Garros 2002: Sandrine Testud is here based on her special ranking of #11 (note that that's not a special ranking such as Venus has, which confers seeding; it's just a normal "injury" ranking, though in Testud's case, the "injury" was motherhood).

That leaves surprisingly little room for clay specialists to sneak into a big draw. The only two we would count are Mandula and Maria Sanchez Lorenzo, and they're both Top 40, so they hardly count.

What that all spells is quite a few big early round matches. Looking down the draw, Testud will play that first clay match against Zuluaga, so her odds don't look good. #16 seed Smashnova-Pistolesi takes on Maleeva, who had a surprisingly good clay run at Warsaw. Sharapova will play that first clay match of hers against Barbara Schett, who likes clay (Sharapova much prefers faster surfaces) and who seems finally to be coming back to life. There won't be much press coverage of the contest between Mandula and Schiavone, but it should be a good one, and the winner would face either #12 Farina Elia or Safina. #13 Schnyder opens against Daniela Hantuchova -- though that's hardly the threat it would have been two years ago, and the clay only helps Schnyder. Plus Martinez will have to take on her countrywoman Sanchez Lorenzo.

The Rankings. Last year, Justine Henin-Hardenne won this event. Obviously she won't be repeating that this year. It isn't going to matter, though. Her lead is too big, and in any case Kim Clijsters was last year's finalist.

Of course, Clijsters herself remains set at #2.

It appears Amelie Mauresmo is probably safe at #3 for another week -- but barely. She has 161 points from last year's semifinal to defend, and leads Lindsay Davenport by 171 points. An early loss will leave them nearly tied. And there is Anastasia Myskina to worry about. Myskina is about 350 points behind Mauresmo, with nothing to defend (though she has points in her seventeenth tournament). If Myskina can make the final, she has a shot at overtaking both Davenport and Mauresmo.

Below Myskina is a very large gap, so we know that the same five players will remain at the top of the rankings. The #6 position, though, is up for grabs. Right now it's Petrova's, but she leads Serena by only about 60 points and has 27 to defend. Jennifer Capriati is about 180 points back, with 177 to defend; Elena Dementieva is 200 points back, with nothing to defend; Ai Sugiyama is barely in the equation, about 350 points back with nothing to defend. Capriati and Sugiyama need titles to pass Petrova, and that's if Petrova loses early. Dementieva could pass her with a final. Beyond that, there are just too many possibilities to outline; we have no idea what order these players will end up in.

And we have three players currently at #11 or below with Top Ten chances: Zvonareva (though she really seems to clutch up when the #10 ranking is on the line, and besides, she has 157 points to defend), Venus (who is of course as hot as a player can be these days), and Kuznetsova. Venus has nothing to defend (had Warsaw not been so pitifully weak, she might have made it last week), and Sugiyama, though she lost her opener at Berlin last year, has 178 points on the line at Rome. Venus might not need much more than a quarterfinal, or might be able to back in next week if she's too tired to play this week.

Looking sure to take a fall is Magui Serna, who lost in the third round last year but who beat Farina Elia and Rubin before she did; she has 104 points on the line and isn't playing. She'll be left barely in the Top 40; whatever is wrong with her left (serving) shoulder, it's going to cost her a Roland Garros seed. Daniela Hantuchova, who finally made a rankings move last week, looks likely to go the other direction this time; she made the quarterfinal last year (her next-to-last quarterfinal of 2003) and has 87 points on the line. Other surprise quarterfinalists last year were Iroda Tulyaganova (still injured; she'll be going off the rankings entirely before Wimbledon) and Elena Likhovtseva; the latter is barely Top 50 now and looks likely to fall below that mark; if she loses her opener, she'll end up at her lowest ranking since 1995.

Key Matches. Given that it's a semifinal, we wouldn't bet much on the match between #2 seed Mauresmo and #3 seed Myskina actually happening -- but if it does, Myskina can clinch a career high by winning it.

We'd also play particular attention to the third round match between Kim Clijsters and Jelena Dokic or Karolina Sprem. Clijsters of course beat Sprem at Fed Cup, but Dokic always bothers her, and Sprem probably won't be so nervous here. It will be a good test of how Clijsters is recovering. (Her first match will not be much of a test; she'll face a qualifier, and except for Jelena Kostanic, there isn't much to really fear in the qualifying draw). Clijsters also has an interesting semifinal against Venus Williams.

Since Mary Pierce is in Ai Sugiyama's sixteenth, and Fabiola Zuluaga is in Vera Zvonareva's, we wouldn't bet all that much on Sugiyama and Zvonareva meeting in the Round of Sixteen -- but that's the way they're drawn, and if they do meet, there is a real chance that it will decide who is Top Ten next week.

A second round match between Paola Suarez and Maria Sharapova is interesting for what it will say about Suarez's back and about Sharapova's improvement: Can Sharapova translate her fastcourt improvement to clay? If Suarez is healthy and Sharapova wins anyway, that could be the final proof that Sharapova is headed for the Top Fifteen. If she loses, well, the Russian will have to start actually defending serious points soon.

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V.S. May 3rd, 2004 08:47 PM

Berlin, 3 May 2004
Round table interview with Venus Williams

Question (Q): You have started playing really well. What is the difference compared to the last
months?

WILLIAMS: Oh, thank you. Maybe it’s just to have the opportunity to go out there and play, and to play more or less pain free. I’ve built the confidence in the game. It was tough at the beginning of the year: I didn’t have enough preparation time. When I was playing a match I was just compromising my game. It is difficult to play when you are not fit enough. I guess the difference is that I am healthy.

Q: Which one of the different injuries you had was the most difficult?

WILLIAMS: The leg was difficult because it just wasn’t going away. Then, I turned my ankle a couple of times. It was really frustrating. But I had a lot of good support. My sisters, my mum and my dad were very positive: They always said I was playing well, even if I wasn’t. So I thought I just have to focus on the positive.

Q: Is it something you tend to do in your head, not to think positive?

WILLIAMS: I think I can do better. It’s not my strength to think positive, but it is important to be positive and not to think what went wrong, what did I do wrong in the match. I got caught up in a negative way of thinking.

Q: Did you also have a back injury?

WILLIAMS: Not, thank God. That wasn’t on the list.

Q: How important was the win in Charleston?

WILLIAMS: It was important. I was able to play a lot of matches and to improve. It was good for me.

Q: Did the feeling of winning boost your confidence?

WILLIAMS: That’s an interesting question. I have won titles so many times, so I knew the feeling. But it was good: I knew what I had to do in matches.

Q: Did you at times have the fear of not making it, of not getting back?

WILLIAMS: No. It was just a long way. But, I never felt that I wouldn’t make it. I always had hope that I would get through.

Q: Did you ever have doubts?

WILLIAMS: No, I never doubted it, but it was a long way and hard work.

Q: What strength did you take out of it?

WILLIAMS: The fact that I know I can do it. That I can regroup and have to focus on the future. It is hard when you get negative on yourself.

Q: Now, it’s two titles. Are you going for a bigger one?

WILLIAMS: I’d love to. I wouldn’t say No. But I have to deserve everything.

Q: Is there something you want to improve?

WILLIAMS: I will work a little more on my serve. Especially on my first serve. I’ll work on staying calmer on the court because I get too excited. I need to calm down, look at the ball and hit it and not get too excited about what I can do with it. I must not get ahead of myself.

Q: You’ve never one the German Open. What makes you optimistic?

WILLIAMS: I’ve only been here once and wasn’t here long enough. But, I feel good, I’m moving well. I’m feeling positive. I just have to stay positive.

Q: How are your chances at the French Open?

WILLIAMS: That seems a little bit away. It seems so far, but so close. I definitely want to play well here and keep building my game. Do the right things, do what my mum says.

Q: What does she say?

WILLIAMS: All the right things. I don’t attribute my mistakes to my coaches but to myself.

Q: How do you rate your game?

WILLIAMS: I am in a better mental state. I feel I understand the game better

Q: Do you think getting over all the setbacks has made you a stronger player?

WILLIAMS: I would have preferred not to have the setbacks, but I’ve never looked at it that way.

Q: Some of your rivals think that both you and Serena are good players, but when you are both at a tournament you are twice as good as individuals?

WILLIAMS: I never thought about it that way. We definitely give each other a lot of support and motivation. We have a lot of fun, but I never thought it has an effect if war are both in the draw.

Q: Was it important for Serena for you to get back. Is she not as strong without you?

WILLIAMS: We are both fighting for each other. But, I don’t put pressure on her. She is an adult now.

Q: You have a lot of activities, you don’t see as much of each other.

WILLIAMS: We both have tight schedules. We don’t see each other as much as before. I think Charleston was the last time. We went shopping together, laughed a lot. We had a great gime.

Q: Being away for a time, did you enjoy other things more?

WILLIAMS: At this point, I like tennis more than a lot of things. There are a lot of things to explore, but I want to be best at tennis.

Q: What did you miss most?

WILLIAMS: There wasn’t anything I missed too much. I think it was good in a way I was away. It will maybe extend my career. Playing year in year out is a lot to ask of a person.

Q: Until when do you intend to play?

WILLIAMS: I am not limiting it. I like to think I know when it’s time to go, but not now.

Q: Everyone in the top 10 was injured, it was not only you. Do you think there should be some changes?

WILLIAMS: As regards the sport as a business: I think to get the public to know what the tour is, the prestige of the titles and have it on TV. That would help.
As far a as the players: It is very demanding, it’s a lot for one person. If it’s on a team, it’s a different kind of pressure, I suppose. I just try to do my best all the time.

Q: You and your sister are supposed to go to Athens? There are discussions of the US not going?

WILLIAMS: I am expecting us to go. I haven’t heard the discussions, I haven’t been contacted. I am not worried about it. The world is hard these days, but I expect them to have good security measures to protect their athletes.

Q: Is it special for you to represent your country?

WILLIAMS: Yes, definitely. Hopefully this time I can do more than last time.

Q: From the 5 jobs you do you mentioned, what do you prefer?

WILLIAMS: Probably design. But I enjoy everything that I do. Not many people have the opportunity to do what they like. So, it is a blessing.
Once I leave the court, I have a lot of things I consider my job. Then there is practice and also other things. You need to find a balance

Q: Are you visiting some special places in Berlin?

WILLIAMS: I want to go to the zoo. Do they have popcorn?

Q: What are your favourite animals?


WILLIAMS: I don’t really know. I don’t like birds as much.

Q: Which zoos have you been to?

WILLIAMS: I was at the zoo in Warsaw. Then there was a tragedy in San Diego where I had a trip to the zoo scheduled. Then there cancelled it. Of course, I’ve been to the zoos in Florida. I don’t know why I like the zoo: Maybe it’s my inner child that likes zoo.

V.S. May 4th, 2004 01:04 PM

Venus Ascendant but Berlin field will test her

By Matthew Cronin
********************


Venus Shines Brightly




Kuzy tried to play powerball with Venus.

It’s semi-official: Venus Williams is back and in a pretty big way. If her run through the Family Circle Cup draw and two wipeout wins in Slovenia weren’t convincing, her pair of grind-‘em-out, straight-set wins over Russians Vera Zvonareva and Svetlana Kuznetsova to win the J&S Cup in Warsaw on red clay should be.

It was Vera her made Venus torn abdominal muscle ache in her upset victory over the American in Paris last year and it was Kuzy who outstroked her in Dubai two months ago. But now Venus has found her rhythm and long stride once again and was able to outlast the spirited Russians in rallies.

"I wanted to show today that the girl in Dubai was not Venus Williams," she said of the Kuzy encounter. "I really wanted to take the title. We had strong points and long points. The longer the point the more, I enjoyed it."
That’s truly the point with the elder Williams, who’s a very powerful player but can credit much of her success to her standout defense. In winning her 31st title, she also took down dirtball notable Fabiola Zuluaga and veteran Magdalena Maleeva "I feel normal now," said Venus, who has won 11 matches in a row.. "When I am not winning it's just abnormal for me. I tried not to be hard on myself with the matches I did not win at the start of the year."

No. 11-ranked Venus will likely crack the top 10 again this week in Berlin, which features the strongest field she’s faced since Miami. Kim Clijsters and her recovering wrist in the No. 1 seed, Anastasia Myskina will test her sore shoulder and Jennifer Capriati will attempt to test her sea legs. Fresh off her outstanding play in Fed Cup, Amelie Mauresmo is the looming No. 2 seed.

If Venus wins Berlin, it won’t really matter what happens in Rome next week. With Serena and her aching knee declining to play Berlin (she was offered a wild card) and Henin still struggling to recover from a mono-like virus, V will be the hands-down the Roland Garros favorite. Vera Z. certainly hasn’t shown any indication that she’s ready to become a top-five player, but Kuzy could be a fearsome factor in Paris.

Props to 19-year-old Serb Jelena Jankovic, who won her first career title at the Budapest Grand Prix with a 7-6(4), 6-3 victory over Slovakia's Martina Sucha. Watching Jankovic hit a backhand reminds one of one-time Serb Monica Seles. If she only has her forehand….

V.S. May 4th, 2004 01:07 PM

May 3, 2004, 11:39PM


Venus Williams pain-free for German Open

Copyright 2004 Houston Chronicle News Services





BERLIN -- A healthy Venus Williams can focus on tennis, which is bad news for other players at the German Open.

The former No. 1 women's player brings an 11-match winning streak into the $1.3 million tune-up for the French Open. Sixteen of the world's top 20 women are entered.

"I'm feeling good," Williams said on Monday. "I think it was good for me to be away -- I think it extended my career. At this point I prefer to do tennis more than anything else."

Williams endured a string of injuries, including a strained abdominal muscle that sidelined her the final six months of 2003.

She struggled when she returned to the tour, leading some to wonder whether she could recover the powerful game that helped win four major titles.

But Williams knew she still could play well, and she got plenty of support from younger sister Serena and her family.

"They were always positive -- they knew I could do it," Williams said. "I would just play a terrible match and my father, Richard, would say the most positive things. It really helped me through a difficult time."

Kim Clijsters, seeded No. 1, is entered after a wrist injury sidelined her for six weeks. Other top players include Amelie Mauresmo and Jennifer Capriati. Like Williams, they won't play until today or Wednesday.

Several seeded players were in action Monday. No. 16 Anna Smashnova-Pistolesi beat Magdalena Maleeva 6-3, 6-1 and No. 11 Paola Suarez defeated Anabel Medina Garrigues 6-2, 7-5.

V.S. May 5th, 2004 06:54 PM

May 4, 2004

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© WTA Tour
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Whirlpool Launches European Sponsorship

BERLIN, Germany - Whirlpool Europe officially initiated its premier sponsorship of the European WTA Tour on Tuesday, a partnership that was previously announced in March of this year in Nice. The partnership brings together two top global brands that are household names for performance, leadership and passion.

Whirlpool Europe is also the presenting sponsor for the WTA Tour’s official social cause, Habitat for Humanity, a non-profit organization dedicated to eliminating poverty housing, with a passion for supporting women as central figures in society and the family. The three organizations are equally dedicated global leaders in their respective fields. Habitat for Humanity was thus a natural choice for both Whirlpool and the WTA Tour.


"Being the premier sponsor of the WTA Tour in Europe enables us to support the Whirlpool brand's position of "Sensing the Difference", reflected in the newly launched pan-European campaign. The Whirlpool brand has a strong connection to the strength and tenacity of women’s tennis, where best-in-class performance co-exists with grace and femininity. This is our first major sponsorship and it reflects our desire to understand women’s needs and priorities in life," said Jörg Armann, Finance Director, Whirlpool Germany.

The partnership between Whirlpool Europe and the European branch of Habitat for Humanity, with the support of the WTA Tour, began this year with successful events at the WTA Tour tournaments in Estoril and Warsaw. It follows a long-established relationship between the Whirlpool Corporation and Habitat for Humanity on a global level, which has resulted in more than $25 million in service and support donations since 1999. Whirlpool Europe, in the first year alone, will donate 600 Whirlpool brand home appliances for the construction program across Europe. The homes, which will be sold to people in need at no profit, through no-interest loans, will each include a Whirlpool brand cooker, refrigerator and washing machine.


Venus Williams a proponent of the partnership stated, "The Whirlpool brand and women’s tennis have a lot in common: they’re both feminine, modern and dynamic. These are qualities that make me proud to be part of this partnership. I am here today also to show my support, and that of the other players, to the activities of Habitat for Humanity. I think they’re doing a great job and they need all the help we can give them."


"Whirlpool’s contribution to our program and the support of the WTA Tour in Europe is another important step forward in our global efforts to help eliminate poverty housing worldwide, " said Liz Burke, Habitat for Humanity, Europe. "Their commitment to our cause will enable us to inform more people about our activities nationally and enlist their help, improving the lives of those families living in poverty housing situations around the country."

V.S. May 5th, 2004 06:55 PM

May 5, 2004

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© Getty Images
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Venus Finds Her Feet on Clay

by John Berkok What was beginning to seem like past glory has welcomingly resurfaced as former world No.1 Venus Williams has dominated the first leg of the WTA Tour clay court season, winning 11 straight matches and picking up two titles along the way.

Not scheduled to play at Amelia Island, Venus stormed through the draw the next week in Charleston, coming back from a one set deficit in the final to defeat Spanish veteran Conchita Martinez 26 62 61 and capture the Family Circle Cup title on debut. The next week, she helped the USA through to the quarterfinals of the Fed Cup with two singles wins against Slovenia.

Venus then headed to Warsaw, Poland, dropping a set in her opening round match with Australian Open semifinalist Fabiola Zuluaga, but then cruising to the title without the loss of another set, avenging her worst loss of the year in the final 61 64 against Russian Svetlana Kuznetsova, to capture her first J&S Cup. Venus won only five games against the Russian in a quarterfinal loss in Dubai earlier this year.

It was last year in Warsaw where Venus suffered an abdominal strain which would hamper her season and lead to her lengthy lay-off after Wimbledon. However, according to Williams, the injury is no longer a factor.

"I'm fine now. I just have to make sure that I don't get tight," she said, "I've had really no issues with the abdominals this year."

Needless to say, the winning streak and the ease at which she has dispatched her experienced and talented opponents certainly places her among the favourites for the French Open title, alongside Belgians Justine Henin-Hardenne and Kim Clijsters, as well as a resurgent sister Serena.

However, such favoritism would have seemed unlikely just weeks ago.

This resurgence to form is not a new situation for Williams. After a rapid rise to the upper echelon of women's tennis, she struggled with injury, culminating in an extended six-month lay-off from wrist tendonitis at the beginning of the 2000 season.

Coming back from the long lay-off, it appeared as though Venus was not the same player she used was previous to the lay-off. Early losses in her first few tournaments back ended up meaning nothing, as the match play would help a rested Venus find her form again and storm to her first major at Wimbledon just weeks later.

Venus not only won the US Open later in 2000, but also defended the two major titles the next year, also gaining the No.1 ranking in that run. With the exception of injuries and thus a limited playing schedule, she was clearly the player to beat heading into 2002.

"When you're on a professional tour, you don't aspire to be No.3 or No.2. Normally you do your best to become the best," she said at the time. "At this point, I am the best player in the world."

The momentum shifted, however, as younger sister Serena turned the rivalry upside down and dominated the 2002 and the beginning of the 2003 seasons, shutting sister Venus out in five major finals. Perhaps the most damaging loss of 2003 for Venus was not in a major, it was in Warsaw, where the abdominal strain forced her to retire against Amelie Mauresmo in the final.

After losing in the Wimbledon final to Serena, the severity of the injury meant that Venus would not see competition for the rest of the season.

Venus returned to the circuit at the outset of the 2004 season, but appeared rusty and was unable to make it past the quarterfinals in her first four events, the last of which, the NASDAQ-100 Open in Miami, was the comeback tournament for sister Serena from her own knee injury. Serena ended up winning the title, defeating Elena Dementieva in the final. Dementieva had defeated Venus en route to her finals appearance.

"I did feel a little bit inconsistent, that's definitely what I'm going to work on," said Venus, "... but sometimes it happens if you don't always play a lot of matches."

At the time, it appeared that Venus was not the same player as she used to be, and some doubted if she could ever regain the No.1 form. Those doubters have now been silenced.

Perhaps this could be an indication that we are seeing Venus Williams unleash her maximum potential once more.

"The more matches that I play, the easier it becomes for me," said Williams after her Charleston and Federation Cup success, "I learn from each match... I wouldn't say it started in Charleston."

"When she won in Charleston, I thought she played as well as she ever had," said Martina Navratilova, who accompanied Williams on the Fed Cup team against Slovenia. "I think she can hit that stride again, if she stays healthy. That's always been the question for her. I think she's got the confidence back."

With a healthy Venus Williams gaining confidence every match and another major title possibly around the corner, perhaps we are witnessing history repeat itself.

V.S. May 5th, 2004 06:57 PM

Wednesday, May 5, 2004

Venus needs just 80 minutes to advance



Associated Press
BERLIN -- Venus Williams extended her winning streak to 12 matches by beating Eleni Danilidou 7-5, 6-3 Wednesday to reach the German Open quarterfinals.




Williams smacked a backhand volley into the open court to end the match after 80 minutes, but not everything came easily for the four-time major champion. She trailed 2-0 in the second set before raising her game.



The third-seeded Williams is chasing her third straight title at the clay-court tuneup for the French Open.



Kim Clijsters also moved into the round of eight, overcoming a rocky comeback from a left wrist injury to get past qualifier Marta Marrero 6-3, 2-6, 6-4.



Clijsters trailed 3-2 in the final set and needed three match points before winning in two hours.



"I definitely didn't play the best tennis match of my career," Clijsters said, adding that her wrist isn't completely healed after a six-week layoff.



"Being on the court and not being able to hit the ball the way you like to is frustrating. But winning, no matter how, is satisfying. It's good to have a tough match like this," Clijsters said.



She wore a brace around her left wrist for tendinitis, which has sidelined her since pulling out at Indian Wells, Calif.



Second-seeded Amelie Mauresmo had an easier time reaching the quarterfinals, needing just 50 minutes to coast past Gisela Dulko 6-1, 6-2.



Also, Elena Dementieva edged Stephanie Cohen-Aloro 6-4, 3-6, 6-2.



The brace hampered Clijsters' two-handed backhand, which she was unable to practice during her layoff.



At one point in the second set against the 81st-ranked Marrero, Clijsters dropped five straight points, all on backhands. After losing the set, the Belgian smashed a ball against a wall.



"She was definitely putting pressure on my backhand," Clijsters said. "I'm not consistent, but I will try to work myself back to where I am consistent."



She now faces Karolina Sprem, who eliminated Meghann Shaugnessy 6-2, 7-6 (3).

V.S. May 6th, 2004 04:24 PM

Williams powers to 13th consecutive victory


May 6, 2004
SportsLine.com wire reports
BERLIN -- Venus Williams overwhelmed Anna Smashnova-Pistolesi 6-3, 6-1 in the third round of the German Open on Thursday, showing the full range of her power game.

Williams ran her winning streak to 13 matches, slamming winners all over the court and landing her big first serve against the 16th-seeded Israeli at a clay-court tuneup for the French Open.

"It was definitely better than yesterday -- I was just trying to make things happen and I started attacking the net," the third-seeded Williams said.

The American struggled at times in her second-round victory over Eleni Daniilidou, but this time Williams looked sharper. She needed less than an hour to win, ending with a forehand that hugged the line.

Sixth-seeded Jennifer Capriati had a bit more trouble, forced to come back from a set down before getting past 17-year-old Russian Maria Sharapova 5-7, 6-4, 6-1.

Capriati lost in the third round at her last two tournaments.

http://images.sportsline.com/u/photo...img7309643.jpg Venus Williams will meet Paola Suarez in the German Open quarterfinals.(Getty Images) "I was just playing not to lose. Then, in the middle of the second set, I started to loosen up," Capriati said. "It's been a long time since I won that kind of match. It was important to get my confidence back."

Top-seeded Kim Clijsters and No. 3 Amelie Mauresmo were scheduled to play later Thursday.

Capriati finally took control against Sharapova by holding serve twice to take a 3-0 third-set lead in a match filled with breaks.

"I wasn't mentally there for the third set," Sharapova said. "She's just more experienced and knows what to do in those situations."

The 22nd-ranked Sharapova was the youngest title winner on tour in 2003 and only the second wild-card player to reach Wimbledon's fourth round. She rose 154 places in the rankings last season.

"She's already a good player, but she can definitely get better at some things," Capriati said.

Capriati has been fighting back problems all year and was forced to skip several events, but said the problem is under control at the moment. The American wants to peak for Roland Garros, which starts May 24. She won the 2001 French Open for the last of her three Grand Slam tournament titles.


AP NEWS
The Associated Press News Service

V.S. May 7th, 2004 06:09 PM

Friday, May 7, 2004

Capriati, Venus reach semis



Associated Press
BERLIN -- Jennifer Capriati beat a top-10 player for the first time this year to reach the German Open semifinals Friday, and Venus Williams won her 14th straight match -- her longest winning streak since 2001.




Capriati rolled past No. 5 Anastasia Myskina 6-3, 6-2, and will meet Amelie Mauresmo for a spot in the final at the clay-court tuneup for the French Open.



Mauresmo needed nearly two hours to get past Svetlana Kuznetsova 6-7 (5), 6-3, 6-1.



Williams defeated Paola Suarez 7-6 (5), 5-7, 6-2. Williams had to charge back several times against the world's top doubles player on a rain-soaked court that restricted the American's power game.



The third-seeded Williams -- who has won two straight tournaments -- trailed 6-5, 30-15 in the first set before pulling it out. Williams will face Karolina Sprem or Fabiola Zuluaga in the semifinals.



Capriati's victory was a boost for a player who's fought back injuries all year and played just four events this season -- losing by the third round at three.



The three-time major champion also picked up a good win Thursday, eliminating Russian teen Maria Sharapova.



"I woke up feeling really good. I think I was just so pumped up from yesterday -- I had a lot of energy," Capriati said. "It's coming back, but you don't lose your confidence overnight and you don't get it back overnight."



After a one-hour rain delay, Capriati proved steadier than Myskina, who made a lot of unforced errors. Myskina showed some rust after missing two events because of a sprained toe.



"The ball was so heavy, but I knew the conditions. I think I was patient the whole match," Capriati said. "Maybe it favored me more because Myskina likes a fast pace."



Mauresmo, who won the event in 2001, finally took control with an early second-set break against Kuznetsova, who lost last week's final at Warsaw to Williams. Mauresmo ended the match with a backhand winner down the line.

V.S. May 7th, 2004 06:11 PM

Williams, Capriati reach semifinals at German Open
May 7, 2004

BERLIN (Ticker) - Venus Williams had to dig deep to keep her winning streak alive Friday in the quarterfinals of the Ladies German Open.

The third-seeded Williams won her 14th straight match, a 7-6 (7-5), 5-7, 6-2 triumph over No. 11 Paola Suarez of Argentina.

Williams has won titles in Charleston and Warsaw in her last two tournaments and also won a pair of matches in the Federation Cup last month.

Croatian Karolina Sprem will face Williams after dispatching Colombian Fabiola Zuluaga, 6-3, 6-2. Sprem, who reached the quarterfinals after top seed Kim Clijsters was forced to withdraw with left wrist tendinitis, moved into her third semifinal of the season.

No. 2 Amelie Mauresmo of France, the 2001 German Open champion, battled past No. 10 Svetlana Kuznetsova, 6-7 (5-7), 6-3, 6-1. Mauresmo is seeking her first title of the year.

Sixth-seeded American Jennifer Capriati beat No. 4 Anastasia Myskina, 6-3, 6-2, for her first victory over a top-10 player this year. Capriati is playing in only her fifth event this season due to injuries. Mauresmo and Capriati will square off in Saturday's semifinal. First prize at this Tier I French Open tuneup is $189,000.

V.S. May 8th, 2004 11:39 PM

Venus twists ankle in win, might skip German Open final


May 8, 2004
SportsLine.com wire reports
BERLIN -- Venus Williams twisted her ankle while avoiding an upset against Karolina Sprem on Saturday and said the injury could force her to miss the German Open final against Amelie Mauresmo.

http://view.atdmt.com/DEN/view/cbssk...ect/01/1377164http://view.atdmt.com/DEN/view/cbssk...ect/01/1377164 Mauresmo surged into Sunday's title match of this $1.3 million French Open tuneup with a 6-2, 6-0 rout of Jennifer Capriati in the other semifinal.

Williams was overpowered in the first set but recovered to win 2-6, 6-3, 6-4. She wore tape on her left ankle after twisting it in the final game against the 19-year-old Croat.

"I don't know what's going to happen. I'm going to deal with it tonight," Williams said.

"But I'm extremely motivated to play," she added. "So that's a good sign."

She trailed 3-0 in the final set before regrouping to extend her winning streak to 15 matches. If Williams plays Sunday, she will be chasing her third straight title.

Sprem, ranked No. 29, made the crowd gasp at times in racing through the first set in 23 minutes, slamming winner after winner on the clay court against a player once ranked No. 1.

"She played unbelievably and it took me awhile to find my game," said Williams, who is seeded third. "But I never thought I would lose, not even at 0-3."

Williams charged back in the final set to make it 3-3. Williams then blasted one serve down the line and then caught Sprem off balance for an easy forehand. That wrapped up the game and put her in control.

Williams has battled injuries in recent months, including an abdominal strain that sidelined her for half of 2003.

"I've been so down and out, it's important for me to be fit," she said. "But I'm in Berlin, I can't get my head into thinking about the French."

Mauresmo ran off 12 straight games against Capriati, winning in 52 minutes.

"I'm very happy. I expected a tougher match," said the third-ranked Mauresmo, who won this tournament in 2001.

Capriati, a two-time Australian Open champion, has been troubled by back injuries. She was coming off her biggest win of the year against Anastasia Myskina in the quarterfinals and appeared ready to give the Frenchwoman a tough match. But Mauresmo had few problems and raised her career record against Capriati to 6-4.

Mauresmo, seeded second, blasted winners, made few mistakes and boomed her first serve. Capriati couldn't hit the ball deep or precisely enough to stay in the match.

"She was in a zone," Capriati said. "I didn't have a chance. You kind of know sometimes you can't touch someone playing that good."

Mauresmo is among the top contenders to win the French Open, which starts May 24.

"If she plays like this, yes," Capriati said. "But I'm very happy with my tournament. I had some big wins. It got me over the hump. I think I can peak for the French Open at the right time."

This year's French Open appears wide open, with defending champion Justine Henin-Hardenne missing the past month because of a virus, Serena Williams coming off a knee injury and Kim Clijsters forced out by a wrist injury.

Mauresmo has had back problems and skipped several events this year, but she said she feels fine now. She will be playing her third final of 2004.

V.S. May 8th, 2004 11:52 PM

Williams Reaches Berlin Final But Hurts Ankle
Sat May 8, 2004 01:52 PM ET
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http://wwwi.reuters.com/comX/images/clear.gifBERLIN (Reuters) - Former world number one Venus Williams overcame Croatian Karolina Sprem 2-6, 6-3, 6-4 in a surprisingly tight German Open semi-final on Saturday but hurt her ankle while serving for the match.



Third seed Williams, who twisted her left foot in the final game, said she hoped to be able to play Sunday's final, in which she would face Amelie Mauresmo.

The powerful Frenchwoman, seeded second in the claycourt tournament, produced a near-perfect display to crush Jennifer Capriati 6-2, 6-0 in the other semi-final.

"I don't know what I'll decide yet," American Williams said on whether she would be able to chase a third straight WTA Tour title after victories in Charleston and Warsaw.

"I will try to prepare for the match but I don't want to do anything stupid," added the elder Williams sister, who has to be careful with the French Open approaching on May 24.

Williams, recapturing her best form after a string of injuries, extended her winning streak to 15 matches but was made to work by her 19-year-old opponent.

The unseeded Sprem gave her a hard time and looked to be on her way to a major upset by opening up a 3-0 lead in the decisive set but Williams stepped up a gear to win an exciting contest which lasted just under two hours.

"I felt great and I never had the feeling I might lose," Williams said. "I twisted my foot a bit and I'll have it looked at."

By contrast, world number three Mauresmo took just 52 minutes to oust Capriati, the number six seed.

"I felt really good and noticed that my confidence was coming back," said Mauresmo, who has struggled with a back problem but is strongly suggesting here that she could be a threat at the French Open.

"In the important moments I always found the right answer," she added.

The 24-year-old Mauresmo made her breakthrough in Berlin in 1998, reaching the final as a qualifier, and won the title in 2001 with victory over Capriati in the final. American Capriati accumulated unforced errors in a one-sided semi-final. The 28-year-old former world number one was making her ninth appearance in the German capital.

V.S. May 8th, 2004 11:59 PM

Williams, Mauresmo reach final at Ladies German Open
May 8, 2004

BERLIN (Ticker) - Venus Williams never doubted that she would make it into the final of the Ladies German Open, even if she had to limp into the championship match.

The third-seeded American battled back to beat unseeded Karolina Sprem, 2-6, 6-3, 6-4, on Saturday for her 15th straight victory.

Williams lost the first three games of the third set before leaving the court to receive treatment for a twisted ankle and a left hip strain. She returned to win six of the next seven games to set up a final showdown with second seed Amelie Mauresmo of France. Sprem appeared to be in complete control but Williams said she never felt in danger of losing.

"These days you have to be ready to play anyone," Williams said. "Karolina played an excellent match, but I knew I couldn't play super spectacular like she was. At 3-0, I told myself to stay clam, try my best to break her serve and not to get stressed."

Mauresmo routed sixth-seeded American Jennifer Capriati, 6-2, 6-0, in 53 minutes.

Williams has won titles in Charleston and Warsaw in her last two tournaments and also won a pair of matches in the Federation Cup last month. She is on her longest unbeaten stretch since she won 19 straight matches in 2002.

The former world No. 1 has won three straight tournaments three times in her career, but she has never captured three in as many weeks. A win on Sunday would give Williams 32 career titles and make her the first woman to win three consecutive claycourt events since Conchita Martinez in 1995.

Sprem was playing in her first Tier I semifinal and is expected to reach a career high of at least No. 25 in next week's rankings.

The 19-year-old Croatian won the first four games of the match en route to a one-set lead. Williams regrouped in the second set, but fell in an hole at the start of the third. She broke Sprem's serve twice in a row to take a 4-3 lead.

Williams foiled several bids by Sprem to get back into the match and held on to close out the match in 1 hour, 54 minutes.

"At 3-0 I felt my legs start to get tired," Sprem said. "It was a great experience for me because Venus is definitely one of the best players out there at the moment."

Mauresmo advanced to her third final of the year, but is seeking her first title of 2004 after injuring her back in January. The 2001 German Open champion improved to 6-4 lifetime against Capriati.

"I'm very happy with how I played today," said Mauresmo, the runner-up this year in Sydney and Amelia Island. "I felt I was very much in control."

"There wasn't much I could do today," Capriati said. "Amelie was just was playing very well. It was as if she was in a zone." The 24-year-old Frenchwoman has lost five of six career meetings with Williams, with her only win coming last April at Warsaw when the American retired with the abdominal injury that would end her season in August. First prize at this Tier I French Open tuneup is $189,000.

V.S. May 9th, 2004 08:57 PM

Injured Venus Williams pulls out of German Open final

By ROY KAMMERER, Associated Press Writer
May 9, 2004

AP - May 9, 9:23 am EDT
More Photos


BERLIN (AP) -- Venus Williams pulled out of the German Open final Sunday because of an ankle injury, giving the title to Amelie Mauresmo. The injury could threaten Williams' chances of playing the French Open.

Williams, the latest top female player to be injured, twisted her left ankle against Croatia's Karolina Sprem in Saturday's semifinal.

Williams, who has been battling injuries all year, was unsure if her ailing ankle would force to skip the clay-court major at Roland Garros, which starts in two weeks.

``I don't know, I don't even want to think about that right now,'' said Williams, once ranked No. 1. ``Last night I had difficulties with it. Right now I got one good and one bad foot.''

``I would really, really like to play the French. But right now I'm just going home to get some rest and see my family.'' ``

Williams was riding a 15-match winning streak and seeking her third straight title before pulling out. Mauresmo, ranked No. 3, picked up her first title this year and 11th of her career.

``It's a shame for everybody,'' the Frenchwoman said. ``It's a strange way to end the tournament. You want to win a title on the court.''

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Many of the biggest names on the women's tour have been sidelined by health problems this year. Top-ranked Justine Henin-Hardenne is battling a virus, and Serena Williams will return from a knee injury at next week's tournament in Rome.

Kim Clijsters, ranked second, was forced out of the French Open when her recurring wrist injury flared at the German Open, a key tuneup for the French. She pulled out of a quarterfinal.

``It's like there's a spell over the tour,'' Clijsters said.

Mauresmo has missed several events with back injuries along with Jennifer Capriati, whom she beat in Saturday's semifinals.

``Tennis is getting harder and harder,'' Mauresmo said. ``The level is higher and higher every year and we have to work to keep up that level and sometimes our body doesn't follow.''

Venus Williams has had a leg injury and several times twisted her ankles during a comeback from an abdominal strain that sidelined the American for the second half of 2003.

Williams survived a tough match against Sprem. The Croat was up 3-0 in the final set before Williams rallied to win 2-6, 6-3, 6-4 at the $1.3 million clay-court event.

Mauresmo, who also won the tournament in 2001, routed Capriati 6-2, 6-0 and appears in great form heading into the French Open.

``I'm one of, let's say, five players who have real hopes of winning there,'' said Mauresmo, who earned $189,000 for her Berlin title. ``The pleasure isn't the same winning the tournament this way. But it's not just today, it's the way you've played the whole week.''


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