Serena Falls to Schnyder in Rome Thriller; Jankovic Rolls

Posted on May 19, 2007

ROME, Italy - After having a somewhat disappointing start to her year, batting an even 9-9 in her first nine tournaments, she picked her game up last week in Berlin, reaching the quarterfinals on the strength of three wins, including against Swiss compatriot Martina Hingis. This week she has gone one step further, however, and has taken out another of the greats to get there; Patty Schnyder won a quarterfinal thriller over Serena Williams on Friday to reach the semifinals of the Internazionali BNL d'Italia.

Schnyder, the No.14 seed at the Tier I event, came out on fire, winning the opening set easily in just 29 minutes, 6-3, and racing out to a 2-0 lead in the second. But the No.8-seeded Williams came back in a hurry, reeling off six straight games, none of which even went to deuce, to grab that second set from underneath her, 6-2.

"I completely lost it," Schnyder commented on the second set turnaround. "It's something that you can't really explain because as a player like me with so many years on the Tour, you don't want it to happen... but it still happens to everyone."

"I was playing a little better and she was playing a bit worse at that point," said Williams. "Naturally I thought I was going to go on and win, but comfortably or not, I didn't think about that. I just thought about winning points."

The 59-minute third set was a serving display, as both players held serve until the all-important tie-break. Schnyder built a 5-2 lead that was quickly cut down by the resilient Williams, but the comeback didn't last long, as the crafty Swiss clinched the one-hour, 57-minute match with two aggressive points, 63 26 76(5).

"I really felt a lot of pressure because she was out there fighting; not just going for the shots but she really wanted to win," Schnyder said. "I think we played at a really high level in that third set. We were both serving well and not missing easy shots. They were difficult conditions but somehow I managed to handle them."

"I just didn't make the shots I was supposed to make," Williams stated. "I made too many unforced errors today, probably about 50, which is considerably good to get to 7-6 in the third. I was very inconsistent and I just didn't play well today."

But the American, who won two rounds to reach the quarters, still holds a positive outlook going into Roland Garros.

"It was a nice couple rounds," she said. "It's good to get here on the red clay and get some good matches and lots of long points under your belt. Not winning today is going to end up working well; I get to do more work now to be even more fit."
This was Schnyder's second win in eight career match-ups against Williams. Her only previous win came in their only other clay encounter, at Charleston in 2002.

"Some days you can do it then others you lose, especially with such a champion like Serena," Schnyder added. "I'm just extremely happy that I could do it again because she's just the champion to beat this year."

And this being her second turnaround week after a season that has seen her drop out of the Top 10 and nearly the Top 20, Schnyder's confidence is revived.

"I'm really happy after such a slow start to the year; sometimes, you need a little breakthrough and definitely last week I played good matches. But this is for sure a breakthrough for me. I just don't want to let my level of play or confidence drop again. I just want to keep it up and see what's going to happen this year."

Awaiting Schnyder in the semifinals will be another player who is on fire this year, No.3 seed Jelena Jankovic, who crushed No.10 seed Elena Dementieva, 62 61.

"She is playing with so much confidence," added Schnyder on her next opponent. "Her ranking just goes up and up - and she's still motivated to go higher and play every week. I'll definitely need to play my best to win."

Battling in the other semi are Svetlana Kuznetsova and Daniela Hantuchova. On Friday, No.2 seed Kuznetsova dismissed No.6-seeded Dinara Safina, 61 63, while No.9 seed Hantuchova got past non-seed Anabel Medina Garrigues, 76(8) 75.

"I've played Daniela twice this year; I beat her once and lost to her once," stated Kuznetsova. "It's going to be a tough match. But I don't want to think about her. I want to concentrate on myself. If I play well I have chances against everybody."

Hantuchova hopes to recover from the marathon two-hour, 25-minute victory on Friday night. She had all sorts of chances to close the first set out more quickly, having dominated the early goings en route to a 4-1 lead then holding her first set points at 6-5 and 7-6 in the tie-break. She saved a set point against her when she trailed 8-7 in the tie-break, but reeled off three straight points. She rallied back from a 3-1 deficit in the second set to go up 5-3, and had three match points in that game, but again allowed the Spaniard back in, winning four games later.

The three remaining doubles quarterfinals were also played on Friday, the most notable one coming earlier in the day, as No.2 seeds and reigning Australian Open champions Cara Black and Liezel Huber downed unseeded Italians Karin Knapp and Romina Oprandi, 57 62 104. Both doubles semis will take the court Saturday in the Italian capital. (WTA)