Capriati tries not to look ahead to matchup against Venus

Sunday, March 23rd 2003, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

KEY BISCAYNE, Fla. (AP) _ Jennifer Capriati searched her memory regarding American Sarah Taylor, her next opponent at the Nasdaq-100 Open.

``I might have played her in the U.S. Open last year, first round,'' Capriati said. ``I'm not really sure.''

For top players, early round matches tend to become a blur, and Capriati won a forgettable one Sunday. She overcame seven double faults in the first set and beat Laura Granville 7-6 (4), 6-0.

Next is a fourth-round matchup Monday against wild-card entry Taylor, who did indeed face Capriati last year _ but at Montreal, not the U.S. Open. Capriati prevailed 6-4, 6-1.

Should she win again, a likely quarterfinal showdown looms against an opponent Capriati remembers all too well: Venus Williams.

``I know that it's not good to look ahead,'' Capriati said. ``You've really got to take it match by match. It's going to be tough enough once I get there.

``So I'll just work now on what I have to, and try to make everything perfect and feel good, so that when I get to that point _ if I do _ I'll just have enough trust in my game.''

Capriati is winless in four meetings with Williams. That includes the 2001 Key Biscayne final, when Capriati held eight match points and still lost.

Williams, seeded second, advanced Sunday by beating Emmanuelle Gagliardi 6-3, 6-2. Williams next plays No. 23 Meghann Shaughnessy, who eliminated No. 13 Magdalena Maleeva 6-4, 6-4.

Taylor, a New York City native ranked 85th, dropped the first five games but rallied past No. 17 Ai Sugiyama 2-6, 6-4, 6-3. That made it two consecutive upsets for Taylor, who beat No. 11 Anastasia Myskina in the second round.

No. 3 Kim Clijsters, No. 4 Justine Henin-Hardenne and No. 7 Lindsay Davenport also won.

On the men's side, American wild-card entry Robby Ginepri continued his rapid rise by beating countryman James Blake 6-3, 6-2. Ginepri, 20, reached the quarterfinals at Indian Wells earlier this month.

American Mardy Fish was eliminated by Nicolas Escude 7-5, 6-3.

No. 3 Juan Carlos Ferrero lost to 1998 champion Marcelo Rios 6-3, 7-6 (2). No. 5 Carlos Moya beat Spanish compatriot Fernando Verdasco 7-6 (5), 6-3.

The sixth-seeded Capriati was lucky to win the opening set against Granville, a Chicagoan seeded 31st. Capriati lost her serve three times, and in the tiebreaker fell behind 3-2 before coming up with a couple of clutch forehand winners.

In the second set, Capriati lost only eight points.

``I just didn't come out as sharp as I would like,'' she said. ``In the second set, I feel like I did everything right.''

The victory was Capriati's 32nd at Key Biscayne, but she has never won the biggest tournament in her native state. She was runner-up the past two years, losing to Serena Williams in the 2002 final.

``It would be great to have this title under my belt, just being from Florida and coming so close the last two times,'' she said. ``But we'll see.''