End of French expedition for Williams sisters

Updated: 03 June 2008 08:57 IST

American sisters Venus and Serena Williams were eliminated in the third round of the French Open on Friday, both losing in straight sets.


American sisters Venus and Serena Williams were eliminated in the third round of the French Open on Friday, both losing in straight sets more than eight hours apart.

Katarina Srebotnik defeated Serena 6-4, 6-4, followed by Flavia Penetta's 7-5, 6-3 victory over Venus.

The double defeats meant that for the first time in the Open era, there will be no American woman in the fourth round at Roland Garros. The only US player left is Robby Ginepri on the men's side.

Winners of 14 Grand Slam titles, the Williams sisters lost to two tour veterans who have never reached a major quarterfinal.

"It wasn't a good day for our family," Venus said. "But we always learn and get more determined after a loss. We'll just come back harder."

For Serena, missed opportunities came in a flurry. She shanked overheads, hit wild volleys and squandered six break points.

But Venus never really gave herself a chance, losing serve six times and committing 29 unforced errors as Pennetta repeatedly bested her in long rallies.

"I was a little inconsistent," Venus said. "I was pretty upset about losing the first set, and didn't stay focused on the big picture, and let it get away from me."

To beat the older Williams, Pennetta had to beat darkness, and she closed out the victory with a forehand winner at 9:47 p.m. Seeded 26th, Pennetta advanced to the fourth round at Roland Garros for the first time.

Serena's hasty exit matched her earliest in nine visits to Roland Garros and guarantees a first-time women's champion. Williams, who won the French Open in 2002, was the lone former champion to enter the draw.

"I missed a lot of easy shots and a lot of key points that I felt like could have turned the match around," a subdued Serena said. "I wasn't able to capitalize."

Three-time defending champion Rafael Nadal played for the fourth consecutive day in the rain-interrupted tournament and defeated Jarkko Nieminen 6-1, 6-3, 6-1 to reach the fourth round. No. 3-seeded Novak Djokovic beat Wayne Odesnik 7-5, 6-4, 6-2.

Top-seeded Maria Sharapova and No. 2 Ana Ivanovic advanced. In the completion of a second-round match halted in the second set on Thursday because of darkness, Sharapova beat American Bethanie Mattek 6-2, 3-6, 6-2. Ivanovic reached the fourth round by beating 17-year-old Caroline Wozniacki 6-4, 6-1.

No. 3 Jelena Jankovic was leading No. 28 Dominika Cibulkova 7-5, 4-2 when darkness forced their match to be suspended.

Serena Williams, who played the day's first match on Court Suzanne Lenglen, converted only one of seven break-point chances and was 0-for-5 in the second set. She repeatedly set up points but failed to finish them, losing 14 of 21 at the net.

"There are a lot of things I would try to do different, but you can't rewind time," said Williams, who also lost in the third round at Roland Garros in 1999.

Her mother and coach, Oracene Price, said Williams has "been in a funk. It's not like her. She wasn't herself."

Srebotnik, seeded No. 27, earned the biggest victory of her career. She has only one win over a player ranked higher than the No. 5-ranked Williams, beating No. 4 Amelie Mauresmo at Zurich in 2005.

"I wasn't nervous," Williams said. "She was getting a lot of balls back, and I might have let that get into my head. She was just making some shots I don't think she's ever made before, or she probably would be in the top two."

When Williams fell behind she turned up the volume, grunting with almost every shot and screaming in celebration when she hit a winner. But she was unable to rally, and her 27-year-old opponent kept her cool down the stretch.

"Today I woke up and it was just another opportunity," Srebotnik said. "This is what you work so hard for _ to be in third round where you play Serena or someone like that and you have really nothing to lose."

Srebotnik and Pennetta credited similar tactics for the upsets, mixing the pace and placement of ground strokes to keep the sisters off balance.

"I was trying to change a lot, to don't play always in the same part of the court," Pennetta said. "I never play I think two balls like the same."

Srebotnik said her goal was to "wrong-foot" Serena.

"When she's serving well, she's very tough," Srebotnik said, "but once I got in the rally I had no problem playing her."

Among those staying for the fourth round was No. 10 Patty Schnyder, who defeated Emilie Loit 7-6 (4), 5-7, 6-2. No. 11 Vera Zvonareva and No. 25 Nadia Petrova completed rain-interrupted, second-round wins.

On the men's side, No. 10 Andy Murray was eliminated by No. 19 Nicolas Almagro 6-3, 6-7 (3), 6-3, 7-5, and No. 15 Mikhail Youzhny lost to No. 22 Fernando Verdasco 7-6 (5), 5-7, 7-5, 6-1.

Sharapova won despite 10 double-faults, giving her 27 in two matches. She finished with 51 unforced errors as she struggled to find a comfort level on clay, her least-favorite surface.

The French Open is the only Grand Slam she has yet to win.

"You're going to have to hit more balls, and you're going to have to move a few extra steps to the ball," Sharapova said. "You have to be more patient. I'm definitely getting better at that, and I'm getting smarter out there."

Nadal, who has been bothered this spring by a blister on his right foot, requested treatment by a trainer after the second set. He said he wanted to keep the ailment from becoming serious, and it didn't prevent him from winning in straight sets for the third time this week.

"I controlled the match from A to Z," he said. "I didn't struggle at all, which is a good sign."

Topics : Tennis Mahesh Bhupathi Novak Djokovic Jie Zheng Rafael Nadal
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