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Serena Shuts Out Schett To Roll Into Roland Garros Fourth Round

Photo By Susan Mullane By Richard Pagliaro

Serena Williams started this French fortnight entrenched in exile: she sent herself to her room. The self-imposed punishment for losing two matches during the clay court season is Williams' way of forcing herself to focus on tennis.

Rather than visit Paris' popular cultural attractions, Williams has spent much of her time off the court inside her hotel room putting her priorities in order. Arriving at Roland Garros for her third-round match with Barbara Schett, a determined Williams essentially placed a Do Not Disturb sign on her Grand Slam winning streak.

Playing with the speed of someone who had room service waiting for her, a fiercely focused Williams shut-out Schett, 6-0, 6-0, to roll into the Roland Garros fourth round.

"Until I can get serious about my tennis, I tell myself, 'Serena, you have to stay in your room until you get serious,' " said Williams, whose only two losses of the season have come on clay as she fell to Justine Henin-Hardenne in the Charleston final and to French woman Amelie Mauresmo in the Rome semifinals. "I'm really trying to concentrate and stay focused."

While she's spent the last week studying the wallpaper inside her hotel room, Williams plastered powerful shots all over the court in redesigning the red clay to accommodate her all-court attack. Schett, who upset Venus Williams in the opening round of the 2001 French Open, reached a career-high rank of No. 8 two years ago, but today she was simply overwhelmed by Williams' shot selection. The Austrian won just 20 points in the match, including only five points in a stunning 17-minute second set that was little more than target practice for Williams.

"I was really focused out there and concentrated on each ball," Williams said. "I just played very good today. Usually Barbara and I have tough matches, I guess today it was just my day. I hope I can keep it up."

There has been widespread speculation — ranging from the players' locker room to Internet posts on tennis message boards — that the top-ranked Williams is vulnerable and ready to be beaten on the slow surface that negates her power.

Don't believe the hype. People questioning her ability to reach her second straight Roland Garros final aren't really paying attention. Williams may once have been a hitter, but she grew into a player years ago and now stands alone as the sport's supreme champion. Power is only component in Williams' awesome arsenal. Her quick court coverage, astute use of angles, ability to effectively end points at the net, the top serve in tennis and above all else, her intense will to win and the intelligence to use all the weapons at her disposal make Serena the complete package.

And while Williams outwardly appears amused by the talk of her vulnerability, inwardly it can only add further fuel to the competitive fire than burns within.

"It makes me feel more relaxed for people to put pressure on the other girls besides just me," Williams said. "People can think (she's vulnerable) what they want. I want to make clay my strongest surface."

Japan's Ai Sugiyama, the 16th seed, is Williams' fourth-round opponent with a potential rematch with Mauresmo looming in the quarterfinals. She may be spending much of her spare time indoors now, but when check-out time arrives, Williams may well be carrying her sixth Grand Slam title along with her luggage.
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