Thursday, June 3, 2004

Capriati hopes experience will work to her advantage

The Associated Press

PARIS - Jennifer Capriati has never lost a Grand Slam final. The other women's French Open semifinalists have never even played in one.

Capriati, the 2001 winner at Roland Garros and a two-time Australian Open champion, plays Russia's Anastasia Myskina in today's semis.

"Jennifer is a great player," said Myskina, who will be playing in her first Grand Slam semifinal. "I know how much she wants to win right now. I just have to keep calm. I do believe I can beat her."

Myskina had not made it beyond the second round in four previous tries at Roland Garros.

"Yeah, my dream was to win the first round here," she said, joking.

Capriati said she feels close to her best.

"It's right up there, the kind of tennis I'm playing," she said.

Argentina's Paola Suarez, seeded No. 14, takes on No. 9 Elena Dementieva of Russia in today's other semi. Both are in the last four at Roland Garros for the first time, although Dementieva reached the U.S. Open semifinals in 2000.

With Serena and Venus Williams and Justine Henin-Hardenne gone, this year's French Open has an unfamiliar feel. For only the second time since the Open era began in 1968, none of the top five women's seeds has made the final four.

Henin-Hardenne, the defending champion and top-seeded player, lost in the second round. Kim Clijsters, last year's runner-up, did not participate because of tendinitis in her left wrist. No. 4 Venus Williams and No. 2 Serena Williams lost in Tuesday's quarterfinals to No. 6 Myskina and No. 7 Capriati, respectively.

Tuesday's quarters marked the first time in the Open era that three of the top four seeded women were eliminated from a Grand Slam on the same day. No. 3 Amelie Mauresmo, the last French hope, lost to Dementieva.

Capriati has beaten Myskina in five of their six matches. However, Myskina beat Capriati 6-2, 6-2 in the semifinals at the Qatar Open in March. She went on to win the title and has reached at least the quarterfinals in seven of eight tour events this year.

Suarez will make her Grand Slam semifinal debut against Dementieva, an Olympic silver medalist in 1996. Suarez beat Dementieva 7-5, 6-3 at the 2002 Acapulco semifinals, the only time they have met on clay. Dementieva leads 2-1 overall.

Dementieva enjoyed clay-court success at Amelia Island, Fla., in 2003, beating Henin-Hardenne in the semifinals and Davenport in the final.

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