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Persistent Pistolesi keeps on playing
By Joe Morelli and Jim Fuller
August 21 2003
New Haven Register

The name Anna Pistolesi may not be recognizable to even the hard-core women’s tennis fans, but mention her maiden name and then it’s hard to forget even for the casual fan.

Pistolesi was known as Anna Smashnova until she married her coach, Claudio, in December. At 27, she is a veteran on the WTA Tour, having won six singles titles in 11 years. She ended last season with her highest world ranking ever — No. 16.

Pistolesi is ranked a little lower now (22nd), but she is the hottest player still remaining in the Pilot Pen Tennis tournament. Pistolesi is on a 12-match winning streak after capturing clay-court events in Sopot, Poland, and Espoo, Finland.

"My game is improving with every match," Pistolesi said. "I’m playing well but you never know. Anything can happen."

Plenty of people left Stadium Court late Tuesday night when Pistolesi fell into an 0-6, 1-5 hole to Vera Zvonareva.

The Belarus native fought her way back into a second-set tiebreaker, which she won 7-5, then won going away in the final set 6-2 to reach the quarterfinal round.

"I was thinking also there was no way I could win it," Pistolesi said. "You try to win one more point, to win one more game. All of the points were very close. It wasn’t really easy for her."

Pistolesi, who is unseeded in this event, had upset No. 5 seed Anastasia Myskina in the opening round Sunday.

Now the resident of Israel will play No. 3 Jennifer Capriati in the first match on Stadium Court today.

Pistolesi said she has never played Capriati before.

"She’s a very, very, very good player," Pistolesi said of Capriati. "I think all of the pressure is on her because she is much higher-ranked. I have nothing to lose, so I can go out there and try to do my best. Anything can happen because there is no pressure."


Tatiana Perebiynis became front-page news Monday night after upsetting Ashley Harkleroad on Stadium Court. She was literally a last-minute replacement for Alexandra Stevenson, who withdrew with an injury.

Perebiynis, a native of the Ukraine, lost in the finals of qualifying at the Pilot Pen Sunday, then waited around hoping for players to withdraw from the main draw. She took advantage of her good fortune by advancing to the second round, where she lost in straight sets Wednesday to No. 8 seed Ai Sugiyama 6-4, 7-6 (5) on the Grandstand Court.

"Maybe I should have been a little more aggressive with my serve," Perebiynis said. "When I broke her, I should have been more focused on being more aggressive."

Perebiynis, 20, finished last year with a 26-25 record and a No. 114 world ranking. She has moved up 15 spots to 89th, but is still lacking matches against the top players on the WTA Tour.

Wednesday’s match against Sugiyama was one of those rare opportunities. There were six straight breaks of serves in the second set that helped keep the match even at 5-5. Then both players held serve to force the tiebreaker. Sugiyama won four straight points to go up 6-3 and hold three match points.

Perebiynis saved two of them, but came up just short on the third one.

"I guess I expected a little bit more from Sugiyama," Perebiynis said. "I had some matches and experience against the top players, but not against the top 10 or 5. I believe that I can beat these girls when I’m playing my game."

Perebiynis will be seeded in the U.S. Open main draw for the first time next week. With her wicked forehand shots, she could be a tough out in the early rounds.

"I’m very happy with the way I played here, in the few matches that I got here before the U.S. Open," Perebiynis said. "I have confidence going into the U.S. Open."


Magui Serna probably couldn’t believe her eyes when she looked at her draw this week.

She ended up having to face the same two opponents as she did in Toronto last week.

Then Serna delivered the same results. The Spaniard defeated Tina Pisnik in the opening round and Magdalena Maleeva in Wednesday’s second round. In both instances, Serna lost the opening set.

The same thing happened against Maleeva in Toronto, but Serna did beat Pisnik in straight sets there.

"She was No. 11 in the world ," Serna, 24, said about her 7-6 (4), 6-3 win over Maleeva. "They were two different matches (against Maleeva). I didn’t put pressure on myself."

Serna, who is ranked No. 32, will try to improve on her performance at Toronto by winning in tonight’s quarterfinals. But she will have to do so against the tournament’s top seed, Lindsay Davenport, on Stadium Court.

"I will try my best, but it will be 10 times more difficult (to win)," Serna said.


For once, it appears as if the U.S. Open will live up to its name.

In recent memory, the women’s draw has been somewhat lacking in the suspense department.

It became a case of, See Serena come, see Serena win. See Venus come, see Venus lose to Serena in the U.S. Open final.

But with a knee injury preventing defending champion Serena Williams from defending her title, and with her sister Venus questionable with a slow healing abdominal strain, it is anybody’s guess as to who will win the Open.

The draw, which was released on Wednesday, was as noticeable by who was missing as who was entered.

Not only is two-time champion Serena Williams absent, but former champions Martina Hingis and Monica Seles will also not be at the final Grand Slam of 2003. If 2000 and 2001 champion Venus Williams isn’t able to play, that would leave Davenport as the only former U.S. Open champion in the 128-player field.

"For sure with Serena out, who has been the clear favorite at all these Grand Slams," said Davenport, the 1998 Open champion. "Venus is less than 50-50 (to) play, that is what I have heard. It is a huge opportunity. You have some good players still to beat, but it is the best opportunity that some girls have had to win in a number of years."

While deciphering Grand Slam brackets can be as painful as weeding though new tax laws, it would appears that Davenport has a generous draw, at least until she would have to meet top-seeded Kim Clijsters in the semifinals. The only top 10 player in Davenport’s quarter is No. 9 Chanda Rubin, who has played a limited schedule during the North American hard-court season because of a shoulder injury.


Davenport has decided that ignorance is the only way to contend with the double standard that has existed in the professional tennis world since her WTA tour debut in 1991.

Davenport has always been somewhat bewildered by the endless stream of stories on women’s tennis players. They are too tall, too short, too heavy, too thin, too this and too that.

Davenport had read myriad stories about her weight and lack of foot speed as she moved up the WTA tour ladder. Finally, she decided to stop reading stories that even mentioned the words "women’s tennis."

As Davenport has seen the media blitz over the waif-like frame of top 10 player Daniela Hantuchova, she has been more than a tad bit uncomfortable. She is especially irked that the focus of coverage on the men’s tour is the tennis, not the ranking of the best bodies on the circuit.

"You see a lot of men who are not in the best of shape and you will never hear them being ripped on," Davenport said. "You see a guy who is not that fast and you will never see him picked on. It just seems like there is this fascination with she is too tall, she is too heavy, she is too slow, they don’t get along, they are fighting where men can be in the locker room and almost have a brawl, and nobody writes on it at all.

I think it is just the way society is.

"I think the Williams (sisters) have been under intense scrutiny and a little bit unfairly. But they have a good attitude about it. I have talked to Serena a few times about it. She kind of just shrugs her shoulder and says this is what we deal with.

"Another example is Jennifer (Capriati); people just can’t seem to get over what happened 12, 13, 14 years ago. The stronger people have kind of come through it, I have come through it. You take the good and then you get the bad, that is the way it goes."

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