Everything is coming together for Jennifer Capriati as the French Open nears. Serena Williams, meantime, still has some work to do before the year's second major.
Capriati beat an error-prone Williams, 6-4, 6-4, yesterday in the Italian Open semifinals in Rome. Her opponent in the clay-court tournament's final will be Amelie Mauresmo, who defeated Vera Zvonareva, 6-2, 6-3.
Capriati had dropped eight straight matches against Williams.
"I've lost to her so many times in a row. It's a very personal victory for me," Capriati said.
The win also was evidence that Capriati's game is improving under new coach Heinz Gunthardt, who worked with Steffi Graf late in her career. Last week, at her first tournament with Gunthardt, Capriati reached the German Open semifinals, losing to eventual champion Mauresmo.
This week was the first time Capriati played in Rome without her father and coach Stefano Capriati. It's also the first time in 11 tries Capriati has reached a final at the Foro Italico.
She won the 2001 French Open; Williams won it the next year. Play starts at Roland Garros on May 24.
Williams is still trying to get her left knee up to speed. The Italian Open was her first tournament back after nearly a month off with soreness in the knee; it was operated on in August, sidelining her until March.
"I think I'm hitting a lot better, and I'm very satisfied with the way my game is going," Williams said.
Capriati had trouble closing out her victory over Williams after taking a 5-1 lead in the second set.
On her first match point, at 5-2, Capriati double-faulted, then lost serve to make it 5-3. After Williams held to make it 5-4, Capriati nearly gave up her lead altogether when Williams had two break points to even the set at 5.
But three straight shots by Williams into the net set up Capriati's second match point, which ended when a Williams forehand struck the top of the net and landed on the wrong side.
* HAMBURG MASTERS: Top-ranked Roger Federer overwhelmed Lleyton Hewitt, 6-0, 6-4, in an hour to reach the final of the German tournament.
Federer's opponent will be defending champion Guillermo Coria, who rallied past Ivan Ljubicic, 3-6, 6-1, 6-4. Coria, who has never played Federer, won his 31st straight match on clay.