Serena Williams Advances at French Open

Friday, May 30th 2003, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

PARIS (AP) _ For the past year, Serena Williams has been winning every Grand Slam match. Now she's winning every game.

The defending champion routed Barbara Schett 6-0, 6-0 Friday, needing just 40 minutes to finish her third-round match at the French Open.

The victory was the 31st in a row at Grand Slam events for Williams, who is seeking her fifth consecutive major title.

``Today was just my day,'' Williams said. ``Hopefully I can keep it up.''

The top-seeded Williams lost only 14 points in the first set and six in the second. She won 12 points in a row at one stretch and hit 23 winners to two for Schett.

Given the way Williams played, maybe fellow American Meghann Shaughnessy caught a break by losing to No. 16-seeded Ai Sugiyama, 6-1, 6-4. Sugiyama faces Williams next.

On the men's side, Andre Agassi improved to 10-0 in major events this year by beating No. 26 Xavier Malisse 6-4, 7-5, 7-5. The stylish Malisse lost despite hitting 13 aces and 55 winners.

``He's a great player to watch,'' Agassi said. ``Sometimes the problem is you watch him while you're playing him and you're not watching the ball. ... Three sets is a lot better than five, and it could have gone five pretty easily today.''

No. 29 Vince Spadea lost to Martin Verkerk 5-7, 6-4, 6-2, 7-5. That left Agassi as the only American remaining among 13 who entered the men's draw.

``It doesn't say great things for American clay-court tennis if I'm one of the leading players in the clay-court events and my results show up like they do,'' Spadea said.

Wayne Ferreira, playing in his 50th consecutive Grand Slam tournament, left on a stretcher. Trailing Rainer Schuettler in the fourth set, Ferreira hurt his groin chasing a forehand and was forced to quit.

Ferreira slipped, did the splits and fell on his back in pain. Schuettler grabbed ice from a container behind the changeover chairs and rushed it to Ferreira.

After being treated by a trainer, the South African was carried off the court, waving to applauding fans. Schuettler, runner-up at the Australian Open in January, led 6-3, 1-6, 7-6 (3), 2-3 when the injury occurred.

No. 23-seeded Younes El Aynaoui lost to Mariano Zabaleta 6-2, 6-4, 3-6, 7-6 (2). Seventh-seeded Guillermo Coria, at 21 the youngest player remaining in the men's draw, beat qualifier Attila Savolt 6-4, 6-1, 6-1.

The warmest day yet at Roland Garros _ muggy and in the mid-80s _ provided motivation to work quickly, and No. 4 Justine Henin-Hardenne and No. 5 Amelie Mauresmo won in straight sets. Henin-Hardenne beat Dally Randriantefy 6-1, 6-1, and Mauresmo eliminated Fabiola Zuluaga 6-3, 6-4.

No. 8 Chanda Rubin rallied to beat fellow American Laura Granville 2-6, 6-1, 6-3.

Schett upset Venus Williams in the first round two years ago, but she was no match for the younger Williams. The Austrian had four break points early but soon found herself overwhelmed.

``When I stepped out there and I lost the first couple of games, I thought, `This is a difficult day,''' Schett said.

Williams closed the first set with a remarkable exchange that left multiple track marks on her side of the clay.

She raced toward a drop shot and scooped it back as she went sliding off the court. Then she reversed direction to hit a running, lunging backhand for a winner as she skidded across the other sideline.

``I'm running really fast here, and that's great,'' Williams said. ``I guess it's the fittest I've been all year.''

Schett managed to hit her only backhand winner in the final game, then raised both arms in mock jubilation as the center-court crowd cheered. But she dumped another backhand into the net on match point, then walked off the court shaking her head and smiling in chagrin.

Williams also smiled. But with four rounds to go for another title, she claimed there's room for improvement.