ISSN: 1391 - 0531
Sunday June 01, 2008
Vol. 42 - No 53

Williams sisters are vanquished

French open

Daylight was already beginning to fade when a frowning Venus Williams walked onto the stadium court for her third-round match at the French Open. She wasn't excited to play so late, and it showed. She lost Friday to Flavia Pennetta, 7-5, 6-3, bringing down the curtain on a dismal day for the Williams family.

When younger sister Serena took the court more than nine hours earlier, the sun was bright but the result was similar. She lost to Katarina Srebotnik 6-4, 6-4. ''It wasn't a good day for our family,'' Venus said.

US player Serena Williams returns a shot to Slovak player Katarina Srebotnik during the third round of the French Tennis Open, at Roland Garros, in Paris. AFP

It wasn't a good day for U.S. tennis, either. 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.

Both losses were unsightly. Serena shanked overheads, sprayed volleys and failed to convert six break points. Venus lost serve six times and committed 29 unforced errors, many after being worn down in long rallies by Pennetta.

The Italian closed out the victory with a forehand winner at 9:47 p.m. Williams said she never asked the chair umpire to suspend the match because of darkness. ''I just kept playing,'' she said. Why didn't she ask to stop? ''Because I didn't,'' she said.

Her sister was equally subdued after her loss. Explaining her demeanor at a postmatch news conference, Serena said, ''I just don't want to be here.''

Among those still hanging around were top-seeded Maria Sharapova and No. 2 Ana Ivanovic, who both won. No. 3 Jelena Jankovic was leading No. 28 Dominika Cibulkova 7-5, 4-2 when darkness forced their match to be suspended _ even as Venus and Pennetta played on.Three-time defending champion Rafael Nadal played for the fourth consecutive day in the rain-interrupted tournament and improved to 24-0 at Roland Garros by defeating Jarkko Nieminen 6-1, 6-3, 6-1. No. 3-seeded Novak Djokovic beat Floridian Wayne Odesnik 7-5, 6-4, 6-2, leaving Robby Ginepri as the only American in either singles draw.

Ginepri was to play Florent Serra on Saturday. Top-ranked Roger Federer was to face the last player to beat him at Wimbledon _ in 2002 _ Mario Ancic. The women's draw lost plenty of star power with the elimination of the Williams sisters. They have combined to win 14 Grand Slam titles but were beaten by two tour veterans who have yet to reach a major quarterfinal.

''It's never fun,'' Venus said. ''I never get used to losing. I don't think anyone gets used to losing. And if they do, then maybe it's time to retire.''

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,'' Williams said.

When she 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 Srebotnik kept her cool down the stretch.

''Today I woke up and it was just another opportunity,'' said Srebotnik, 27, who ranked the win as the biggest of her career. ''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. Said Pennetta: ''I played a complete match in every way.'' - AP

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