TENNIS: French Open

Thursday, May 31st 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

PARIS (AP) _ Serena Williams overcame a sloppy second set to win her second-round match at the French Open on Thursday, eliminating Slovenia's Katarina Srebotnik 6-0, 7-5.

Her pink dress clashing with the red clay, the sixth-seeded Williams shut out her opponent in 19 minutes in the opening set.

She struggled through the next, producing 25 of her 31 unforced errors, then closed out the match with a searing crosscourt forehand.

Williams, 19, is playing her first tournament since March. She and sister Venus withdrew from the doubles competition Wednesday, saying that Serena wanted to concentrate on her singles play.

Fellow teen-ager Andy Roddick produced one of the finest matches of the tournament on Wednesday, playing with severe cramps to beat former champion Michael Chang 5-7, 6-3, 6-4, 6-7 (5), 7-5 in three hours, 50 minutes.

Roddick leapt in sudden jerks of pain between points, clutching his head and leaning on his racket as the cramping worsened in the dramatic final set.

Twelve years ago, Chang won an epic match against Ivan Lendl in the fourth round of the French Open, serving underhand against the No. 1 player when cramping nearly overwhelmed him. He went on to become the youngest men's champion at Roland Garros at age 17 years and 3 months.

``That's one of my first memories of tennis, that match against Lendl,'' Roddick said after his win. ``It definitely crossed my mind. I thought that was pretty ironic.

``It was like a fairy tale.''

Unlike Chang back in 1989, Roddick's serve was devastating throughout the match, with 37 aces and 32 service winners.

``That serve really saved him,'' Chang said. ``I had a lot of chances.

``Even when he was cramping, he was still able to bomb the serve.''

Roddick was loudly jeered for throwing his racket down in frustration in the first set, but by the fifth the crowd was shouting ``Andy! Andy!'' as the teen-ager drew closer to victory.

After sealing the match, Roddick threw his baseball cap into the crowd, then ripped his shirt apart.

Roddick next faces sixth-seeded Lleyton Hewitt, who routed Russian qualifier Nikolay Davydenko 6-0, 6-1, 6-3 in their second-round match.

Defending champion Gustavo Kuerten cruised to his second consecutive straight-set win, eliminating Argentina's Agustin Calleri 6-4, 6-4, 6-4.

Kuerten won the title in 1997 as an outsider ranked 66th in the world, and again last year.

Chang was not the only former champion to exit the tournament Wednesday. Sergi Bruguera, who won the French in 1993 and 1994, retired from his second-round match, blaming sinus problems.

Pete Sampras, who narrowly escaped a humiliating defeat against French qualifier Cedric Kauffmann in the first round, was to face Spanish clay court specialist Galo Blanco in his second-round match Thursday.

Compatriots Andre Agassi and Jennifer Capriati, and top-seeded woman Martina Hingis, were also bidding for a place in the third round Thursday.