TENNIS / FRENCH OPEN : Stafford Only American Woman Left After Bittersweet Victory

Shaun Stafford of Gainesville, Fla., is the only U.S. woman left in singles competition at the French Open. She reached the fourth round of a Grand Slam tournament for the first time Saturday by defeating Ann Grossman of Grove City, Ohio, 6-7 (7-4), 6-3, 6-3.

But Stafford had mixed emotions afterward.

"Ann's a really good friend," she said. "For me, to look across the net and see Ann. . . . I had to scream to let out the tension."

Stafford, ranked No. 72, and Grossman let their feelings show in a tense third set that had five service breaks. Playing in an intimate setting on Court 10, away from the showcase stadiums of Roland Garros, Stafford enjoyed her biggest moment in six years as a professional.

Her doubles partner, Jill Hetherington, who is close with both players, told Stafford to celebrate the accomplishment. But all she could think about was Grossman's feelings.

"I'm concerned," Stafford said. "She probably hates me."

The U.S. Tennis Assn. is surely happy with Stafford's effort after No. 9-seeded Lindsay Davenport became the ninth seeded player to lose. She was upset by 24th-ranked Julie Halard, 6-4, 6-2, who became one of three French women to reach the fourth round.

Davenport, 17, of Murrieta Valley High, could not control the quick-moving Halard and looked flat. "She had me on a string," Davenport said.

With Davenport, Martina Navratilova, Mary Joe Fernandez and Zina Garrison-Jackson out, and Jennifer Capriati not playing, the strength of U.S. women's tennis rests with Stafford.

"The problem was staying focused (against Grossman)," Stafford said. "I was letting it get away from me."

She expects to concentrate better against No. 16 Sabine Hack, whom Stafford does not count as a close friend.

Advancing in straight sets Saturday were No. 2 Arantxa Sanchez Vicario of Spain, No. 3 Conchita Martinez of Spain, No. 7 Natalia Zvereva of Belarus and No. 11 Anke Huber of Germany.

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