Venus sparkles; Gasquet beats Wessels


Paris, May 25:

Trying to break her habit of hugging the baseline, Venus Williams charged the net with success and advanced to the third round at French Open.

Williams’ aggressive play helped her overcome an erratic serve and two wobbly stretches on Wednesday to beat Fabiola Zuluaga 6-3, 3-6, 6-3. Clay is typically a difficult surface for net rushers, but while Williams won barely half the rallies when she stayed back, she won 15 of 19 points at the net.

Seeded 11th, Williams had 45 unforced errors, including nine double faults, and lost serve seven times. But she won eight of the final nine points and improved to 6-0 against Zuluaga.

Not every match was close. No 21 Mary Pierce, the 2000 champion, drubbed Jelena Kostanic 6-1, 6-0. Williams will next play 15-year-old Sesil Karatantcheva, who upset No 19 Shinobu Asagoe 7-5, 6-2. No 4 Elena Dementieva won, but No 27 Amy Frazier and No 31 Karolina Sprem were eliminated.

Defending men’s champion Gaston Gaudio reached the third round when Dmitry Tursunov defaulted shortly before their match because of a knee injury.

Tursunov withdrew after undergoing an MRI exam that disclosed a possible cartilage tear.

No 10 David Nalbandian swept Tomas Berdych 6-3, 6-2, 6-1. No 31 Juan Ignacio Chela lost to Victor Hanescu 7-5, 6-1, 3-6, 7-5. Frazier was beaten by Frenchwoman Emilie Loit 6-4, 6-4. Sprem lost to Akiko Morigami 7-5,

6-3. Dementieva, the runner-up last year to Myskina, overcame a set point in the opening set and beat Sanda Mamic 7-6, 6-2.

No 9 Vera Zvonareva rallied past Eva Birnerova 4-6, 6-3, 6-0.

Seeking her fifth Grand Slam title but her first since 2001, Williams is coming off her 32nd tournament title and her first in a year, a win last week in Istanbul.

Williams last reached the quarter-finals at a major event a year ago in Paris before losing to eventual champion Myskina. Her best showing at Roland Garros came in 2002, when she was beaten by sister Serena in the final.

Serena withdrew before this year’s tournament because of a lingering ankle sprain.

Step aside: Sharapova

PARIS: Maria Sharapova has a message for world No. 1 Lindsay Davenport.

“Just tell her,” said the Wimbledon champion, who is ranked No 2, “to step back and give me the place.” Sharapova chuckled as she made the comment in response to a question informing her that Davenport had recently remarked that she felt detached from the No 1 ranking.

“She’s had an amazing career. She’s been No 1 before and she’s won Grand Slams,” Sharapova said of Davenport, who has won a trophy at every major except French Open. The Russian teen has a chance to overtake Davenport in the rankings at Paris. With another hearty laugh and a message for Davenport, She added: “Don’t play, and I’ll become No 1. Thanks, Lindsay.” — AP