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Mauresmo stuns Serena to reach Rome Masters final
Sat May 17, 5:53 PM ET Add U.S. National - AFP to My Yahoo!



ROME (AFP) - French fourth seed Amelie Mauresmo fought back from a set down to upset defending champion Serena Williams (news - web sites) and clinch a place in the final of the Rome Masters.


AFP Photo



Mauresmo defeated America's world number one 1-6, 7-5, 6-3 for her first win in six attempts against the 21-year-old and will play Kim Clijsters in Sunday's final after the Belgian second seed beat Japan's Ai Sugiyama in straight sets.


Williams, who defends her French Open (news - web sites) title at Roland Garros later this month, said her poor serving was the root cause of a surprise defeat.


"I made too many errors, most of all on my service games," she said.


"It's difficult to win when you are not getting a high percentage of first serves in.


"But you have to give Amelie credit because she never gave in. She had an excellent match.


"I'm upset because I like to win, but it's not the end of the world."


Asked what signifigance the defeat might have less than two weeks ahead of the French Open, Williams replied: "It's better to lose here than in Paris. I'm happy with the way I've played here in Rome and it has helped me prepare for the French."


Williams started impressively and raced into a 5-0 lead as Mauresmo struggled to cope with her opponent's powerful groundstrokes and accurate serves.


Mauresmo, 23, stirred into life briefly with a love service game, but Williams held serve to close out the opening set in 21 minutes.


An early break in the second saw Mauresmo take a 2-0 lead, but she double-faulted twice on her next service game to let Williams back in.


Holder of all four Grand Slam titles, Williams drew level and games went with serve until a lengthy ninth game.


Mauresmo's erratic serve allowed Williams to break for a 5-4 lead and the chance to serve for the match, but the top seed then let her concentration slip in the blazing Rome sunshine.


Williams lost her next two service games and Mauresmo took the set.


Mauresmo fought back from being a break down to take advantage of a string of wide forehand strokes from Williams and took a 5-3 lead.


A runner-up here in 2000 and 2001, Mauresmo held serve to become only the second player this year to beat the American.


Belgian Justine Henin-Hardenne beat Williams in April in Charleston.





Clijsters won her match 6-3, 6-2 against doubles partner Sugiyama.

After Sugiyami broke early to take a 2-0 lead, Clijsters stepped up a gear to win the next four games.

The pair then exchanged breaks before Clijsters served out the set after Sugiyama netted a return.

Clijsters broke in the second to go 2-0 up, but Sugiyama returned the compliment to draw level.

Once again Clijsters was able to pick up the pace and won four games in a row for a comfortable victory against the 13th seed from Japan.

Clijsters, who has not dropped a set this week, said she was not surprised by Mauresmo's win against Williams.

"Amelie has played some great tennis all week and the way she fought back today was incredible," she said.

"It's going to be a tough match tomorrow, but I've been playing well and feel confident I can win here."
 

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Serena Loses in Italian Open Semifinals
Sat May 17, 5:08 PM ET

By ANDREW DAMPF, Associated Press Writer

ROME - Serena Williams (news - web sites) lost for the second time in just over a month, the closest she's come to a "Serena Slump" in an otherwise dominant season.


AP Photo


AP Photo
Slideshow: Jennifer Capriati




With a little more than a week before she defends her title at the French Open (news - web sites), the world's top-ranked player lost to Amelie Mauresmo of France 1-6, 7-5, 6-3 in the semifinals of the Italian Open on Saturday.


Williams, who is 26-2 this year, failed to close out the match in the second set after leading 5-4 and serving for the victory.


Such missed opportunities were a rarity for Williams when she completed her "Serena Slam" by winning four consecutive majors, starting at Roland Garros last year and ending with the Australian Open (news - web sites) in January.


"Everything went wrong for me," Williams said. "I was making too many errors and struggling with my serve. I guess that sums it up. You can't win a match with a second serve."


Williams still exuded confidence about her play.


"There was nothing in particular she did," Williams said of Mauresmo. "When I lose a match, it's usually because of how I played. In the end, it's better to lose in Rome than in Paris."


Williams' only other loss this year came against Justine Henin-Hardenne in the final of the Family Circle Cup in Charleston, S.C., on April 13. Both defeats were on clay, the same surface as the French Open, which begins May 26.


Against Mauresmo, Williams was within two points of closing out the match. But a miss on a tricky backhand volley gave Mauresmo a break to get back on serve, and she won three straight games to send the match to a third set.


Mauresmo broke to go ahead 5-3 when a shot by Williams was called long on an overrule by the chair umpire. Aided by four errors from Williams, Mauresmo served out the match.


The fourth-seeded Mauresmo will play for the title against second-seeded Kim Clijsters of Belgium, who defeated No. 13 Ai Sugiyama 6-3, 6-2.


Williams, the tournament's defending champion, took the first set in 21 minutes as Mauresmo won just four points in the first five games.


"I had to stay in there and wait for a chance to play my game," Mauresmo said. "I think I realized I could beat her only in the last two games. That's when I had my chance, and I took it."


Mauresmo had never beaten Williams in five previous meetings. She's going for her second title of the year after defeating Williams' sister, Venus, in the Warsaw final two weeks ago. Mauresmo beat Jennifer Capriati in the quarterfinals Friday.


Clijsters, seeking her third title of the year, said Williams' loss gives hope to all the other players on the tour.


"Amelie beat her now, she beat Venus two weeks ago in Warsaw, and then Justine beat her as well, so it's definitely possible," Clijsters said. "It's just a lot of players don't really believe that they can beat them."


In the doubles final, 46-year-old Martina Navratilova and 17-year-old Svetlana Kuznetsova will meet Jelena Dokic and Nadia Petrova.
 

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Mauresmo Stuns Williams to Reach Rome Final
Sat May 17, 2003 01:43 PM ET





ROME (Reuters) - Fourth seed Amelie Mauresmo inflicted only the second defeat of the year on world number one Serena Williams in the Rome Masters semi-finals on Saturday.
The reward for her hard-fought 1-6, 7-5, 6-3 victory is a final showdown against second seed Kim Clijsters, who crushed Japan's Ai Sugiyama 6-3, 6-2.

Mauresmo had not beaten Williams in five previous matches. The last time they met the American triumphed 6-3, 6-2 on fast carpet in Paris earlier this year, though this was their first encounter on slow European clay.

The defending champion dominated the first set, playing perfect power tennis and rifling groundstroke winners to close out the set in just 21 minutes.

"Obviously at that point I didn't feel so good," Mauresmo told reporters.

"She was playing good tennis, she wasn't missing a thing, putting balls deep and wide. I just had to wait in there, stay in the match and hope her level came down."

The match turned in a nervy second set in which Mauresmo started positively, holding her serve to love and breaking Williams.

But then she choked, hitting two double faults at 30-30 in the following game to surrender the advantage.

In the ninth game the top seed broke to grab a 5-4 lead and a chance to serve for the match, but she also stuttered, losing her next two service games and allowing Mauresmo to level the match at one set all.

FOUGHT BACK

Mauresmo twice fought back from a break down in the decider before profiting from three wide forehands in the eighth game to snatch a 5-3 lead.

She then calmly served out the match to become only the second player this year to defeat the 21-year-old American after Belgium's Justine Henin-Hardenne achieved the feat in the final of the Charleston claycourt tournament last month.

"In that third set I realized I could stay with her. I'd already broken her a few times and I knew I could do it again," the fourth seed said.

"It was tough to come back from 2-0 down (in the third set). But mentally I just stuck in there."

She now hopes to go one better than her two runner-up finishes in Rome in 2000 and 2001.

Williams, meanwhile, attributed the loss as much to her mistakes as her opponent's skill.

"I don't think there was one single thing in particular she did (to put me under pressure)," she said.

"Every time I lose I think it's because of things I didn't do. If I'd have kept playing like I did in the first set, I would have won the match. I made far too many errors, especially on the serve."

Asked whether the defeat would affect her plans in the run-up to the French Open later this month, Williams replied: "It's always disappointing to lose, but it's better to lose here than in Paris (at the French Open). It's not the end of the world."

Clijsters completed her inexorable progress to Sunday's final with a 6-3 6-2 win over Sugiyama.

The Japanese 13th seed led 2-0 in the first set before the 2001 Roland Garros finalist found her rhythm, striking a series of clean winners past her occasional doubles partner.

Mauresmo versus Clijsters promises to be a tight contest. They stand at two victories apiece from their previous four meetings, all on hard courts. Their two most recent matches were both settled 7-5 in the third set.

"Having watched her (Mauresmo) beat Serena today, I think with Justine (Henin-Hardenne) she's one of the best claycourt players out there at the moment, especially as she serves so well," the second seed told reporters

"Tomorrow I'll have to be very consistent, not make any errors and be aggressive. She doesn't give you anything for free."
 
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