Sun, May 18, 2003 - Page 22 News List

Mauresmo knocks off Capriati, again

ITALIAN OPEN Jennifer Capriati has lost four times in a row to France's top player. The fourth-seed will now face top ranked and defending champion Serena Williams

AP , ROME

Amelie Mauresmo of France hits a backhand return to Anna Pistolesi of Russia during their match at the Italian Open in Rome on Friday. Mouresmo won 6-0, 6-3.

PHOTO: REUTERS

Amelie Mauresmo is turning into a real nemesis for Jennifer Capriati.

The Frenchwoman's 6-3, 7-6 (10) victory against Capriati in the quarterfinals of the Italian Open on Friday was Mauresmo's fourth straight win in the career-long series between the two players.

Mauresmo's previous victory came in three sets at the US Open quarterfinals in September. Earlier last summer, Mauresmo came out on top against Capriati in the Wimbledon quarterfinals. She also won a title in Montreal last year by beating the American in the final.

On Friday, Mauresmo saved four set points in the second-set before eliminating the fifth-seeded Capriati.

The fourth-seeded Mauresmo will next face top-ranked and defending champion Serena Williams, who defeated Conchita Martinez 7-5, 6-2. Second-seeded Kim Clijsters and Ai Sugiyama (No. 13) of Japan, who play doubles together, will meet in the other half of the draw.

Mauresmo closed out the match on her fourth match point in this US$1.3 million clay-court tuneup for the French Open, which starts May 26.

"In the US Open I was serving for the match," Capriati said. "I've just got to do more on those opportunities and not let her dictate. I tried today, but she got off to a better start.

"I definitely could have done things a little bit differently -- been more aggressive, which worked for me a couple times in the match, going to the net, stepping up to the ball."

Capriati's last victory in the rivalry was a three-setter in the quarterfinals here a year ago.

On Friday, Capriati benefited from two errors and a net-cord winner to save Mauresmo's first three match points. On the fourth -- Mauresmo's first while serving -- Capriati hit a forehand long.

"It was very close," Mauresmo said. "Very tough points in that tiebreak -- long points, long rallies."

Capriati seemed to grow annoyed by her inability to control the play. Her displeasure became apparent in confrontations with a fan whose cell phone rang during play -- which ultimately resulted in a language warning to Capriati from the chair umpire -- and a TV cameraman positioned in front of her on a changeover.

"There was a lot of tension in the match," Capriati said. ``I got myself fired up and angry so I would try to play with more force."

Mauresmo also noticed Capriati's change in demeanor.

"At some point she was a little pissed off," Mauresmo said. "But I think she does that very often, and I'm not sure it's getting her concentration somewhere else.

"I just try to stay in there even though sometimes I was set point down, and it worked out for me today."

The match was played in cool and mostly cloudy conditions, along with a slight drizzle for the last few games.

Mauresmo also reached the semifinals in Berlin last week, losing to eventual champion Justine Henin-Hardenne. A week earlier, she won her first tournament of the year in Warsaw.

In the semifinals, Mauresmo will encounter the hottest player on tour.

Williams improved to 26-1 this season with her victory against Martinez, who won the Italian Open four consecutive times between 1993 and 1996.

With the sun back out at Foro Italico, Williams's power game overwhelmed Martinez's consistency. The American improved to 5-0 in head-to-head matchups against Martinez.

The Spanish veteran stayed with Williams until 5-5 in the first set. Williams then broke serve and closed out the set with two aces. In the second set, Williams dominated.

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