Zvereva Blows Out Williams' Candles

Associated Press

Natasha Zvereva of Belarus spoiled Venus Williams' 18th birthday Wednesday by routing her, 6-2, 6-1, at a Wimbledon warmup tournament here.

Playing in a cold, blustery wind, Williams had trouble adapting her game to the grass that had been removed from the old No. 1 court at Wimbledon and transported to Eastbourne.

Williams, of Palm Beach Gardens, Fla., chose to rally from the baseline and rarely came to the net or played volleys. In the final game, she double-faulted and then ended her disappointing performance with a forehand that sailed over the baseline.

"I was very inconsistent and didn't play well," Williams said. "I didn't serve well at all. . . . I played poorly. That's the word."

Top-seeded Jana Novotna of the Czech Republic advanced to the quarterfinals with a 6-2, 6-2 win over French qualifier Nathalie Dechy. No. 2 Steffi Graf of Germany easily defeated Britain's Samantha Smith, 6-1, 6-2, to advance to a matchup against No. 6 Anna Kournikova of Russia, a 6-4, 6-1 winner over Mariaan De Swardt of South Africa.

Williams' younger sister, Serena, defeated Ai Sugiyama of Japan 6-2, 7-5.

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