Venus Williams held triple match point over Austrian qualifier Barbara Schwartz in the second set at the French Open today. It looked like a cakewalk to almost everyone but Schwartz. In the second set of his match against Andre Agassi, defending champion Carlos Moya was calmly rolling, 6-4, 4-1. Most at Court Central, including Moya, thought the rest of the match would be no problem.
Neither match turned out as expected. Instead of closing out the 125th-ranked Schwartz, the fifth-seeded Williams dropped six straight points, including the first point of the tiebreak, on her way to a startling 2-6, 7-6 (9-7), 6-3 loss. No. 4 seed Moya's tumble was just as painful, as Agassi rumbled out of neutral to claim a 4-6, 7-5, 7-5, 6-1 victory and a berth in the quarterfinals.
"I was leading pretty easily, 6-4, 4-1 with two breaks," Moya said. "I thought everything was done, you know? That was my problem."
Moya and Williams led a parade of losers that also included Jennifer Capriati, Anna Kournikova and Mary Jo Fernandez, as well as fourth-seeded Jana Novotna and 12th-seeded Greg Rusedski. Capriati had been making a bit of comeback noise, but her winning streak ended at eight matches with a rather quiet 6-2, 6-3 loss at the hands of fellow American Lindsay Davenport. Kournikova put up slightly more of a fight, dragging Steffi Graf to a tiebreaker in a 6-3, 7-6 (7-4) win.
Top seed Martina Hingis and No. 3 seed Monica Seles also advanced as what was originally projected as the weaker side of the women's draw evolved into a final four of Seles, Graf, Davenport and Conchita Martinez. On the other side, a draw that was supposed to be crowded with Novotna, Williams and her sister, Serena, now features Hingis and defending champion Arantxa Sanchez-Vicario as the lone seeds. Serena Williams was ousted by Fernandez on Friday.
"I think the little candle I lit in the church at Sacre Coeur helped," Hingis said. "When I saw the draw and saw both of [the Williamses] on my side, I was like, `I really have to work if I want to win this tournament.' "
Williams rolled through a 6-2 first set and then piled up three match points in the 12th game of the second set. But with Schwartz serving, Williams dumped her return squarely into the net. Schwartz ripped a backhand winner across the court to nullify Williams's second match point, and then Williams was unable to return Schwartz's serve on her third.
Schwartz kept hammering away until she won the game and the tiebreaker -- which Williams only led once, at 5-4 -- and amassed a 3-1 lead in the third set when she broke Williams with a stunning forehand. Williams appeared to be rallying when she broke Schwartz back at love and then won her serve to tie the set at 3-3. Williams even had a break point in the next game, but she hit what should have been a winner into an open court into the net instead.
With the crowd clapping boisterously for her, Schwartz won the game and then broke Williams to go up, 5-3. She looked nervous in the next game as she, too, squandered the first two of three match points, but unlike Williams, she converted on her final opportunity.
"Usually when I lose a match, I really beat myself, but this time I really think she came out and played," Williams said. "In the future I'm going to have to be ready to come out and be able to compete also. . . . I mean, this is the first Grand Slam that I haven't gotten to the quarterfinals in. That's kind of odd."
Williams said she had never seen Schwartz before stepping onto the court today, and while her lack of scouting may be unusual, her unfamiliarity with the 20-year-old was not. Injuries and a desire to finish school kept Schwartz from turning pro until last year, and she is still trying to get the endorsement deals that come with her new status. After her match today, she walked around Roland Garros wearing a shirt crowded with enough corporate logos to rival a NASCAR driver.
Schwartz has challenged top players before, playing Seles tough here last year and getting a set up on Graf at this year's Australian Open, but she lost both matches. She will have another difficult match against Hingis in the quarterfinals.
"I'm a little bit tired now," said Schwartz, who has played seven matches here, including the qualifying tournament. "But the next match I will try again and I will fight again and we will see. For the moment, it's perfect."
When: Through Sunday.
Where: Roland Garros, Paris.
Defending Champions: Carlos Moya and Arantxa Sanchez-Vicario.
Today's TV: 9 a.m., USA.
Yesterday's Key Results: Men -- Marcelo Rios (9), Chile, def. Alberto Berasategui, Spain, 3-6, 3-6, 6-3, 6-4, 6-3; Andre Agassi (13), Las Vegas, def. Carlos Moya (4), Spain, 4-6, 7-5, 7-5, 6-1. Women -- Martina Hingis (1), Switzerland, def. Ruxandra Dragomir, Romania, 6-3, 7-6 (7-5); Lindsay Davenport (2), Newport Beach, Calif., def. Jennifer Capriati, Wesley Chapel, Fla., 6-2, 6-3; Monica Seles (3), Sarasota, Fla., def. Julie Halard-Decugis (16), France, 6-1, 7-5; Barbara Schwartz, Austria, def. Venus Williams (5), Palm Beach Gardens, Fla., 2-6, 7-6 (9-7), 6-3; Steffi Graf (6), Germany, def. Anna Kournikova, Russia, 6-3, 7-6 (7-4); Arantxa Sanchez-Vicario (7), Spain, def. Mary Joe Fernandez, Key Biscayne, Fla., walkover.
Today's Featured Matches: Men -- Felix Mantilla (14), Spain, vs. Fernando Meligeni, Brazil; Gustavo Kuerten (8), Brazil, vs. Bohdan Ulihrach, Czech Republic; Alex Corretja (6), Spain, vs. Stefan Koubek, Austria. Women -- No featured matches.
CAPTION: Venus Williams cannot contain her frustration during her upset loss.