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A Case of Adding an Insult to Injury

TIMES STAFF WRITER

The lob wafted over Serena Williams’ head at the net and she sprinted back to the baseline for it. Williams popped the ball back and her opponent, Virginia Ruano-Pascual of Spain, missed the volley.

Point and game to Williams.

But seconds later, Williams walked off the court, quitting the match and failing to shake the winner’s hand.

Although Venus Williams, 18, did her part by beating Chanda Rubin, 6-3, 6-4, Serena’s loss knocked out the anticipated match between the Williams sisters.

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Trailing 7-5, 4-1, and with the fading prospect of facing her sister in the next round, Serena Williams, 16, took matters into her own hands and left before she lost.

Williams hurt her left calf muscle early in the first set of the third-round match, slipping in the third game. So the timing of her departure was interesting, especially since she had just won a game.

“A rather strange decision by Serena,” said Virginia Wade, BBC commentator and former Wimbledon champion.

Williams agreed, saying, “I guess it was a little unusual.”

She called for the trainer on the changeover before Ruano-Pascual served for the first set at 5-4 and had the calf wrapped. The injury was not thought to be serious.

“It will clear up in a short time,” Williams said. “It’s not hurting as bad as it was on the court. So it’s feeling a little better. So we’ll have to see.

“At that moment in time, I could have carried on if I wanted to, but I have to think about the future. I don’t want to hurt myself over something silly and be out for maybe two months because I didn’t stop.”

Williams, a Wimbledon rookie, said she didn’t realize she’d forgotten to shake Ruano-Pascual’s hand, a lapse of tennis protocol.

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That had never happened to her before, the 24-year-old Spaniard said.

“Yeah, I was surprised,” she added. “Usually they come and tell me, ‘I’m sorry I can’t play,’ or something like that. She asked for the trainer in the first set and had a problem with her calf, [but] she was running [afterward]. I don’t know. I tried to do some drop shots and she was running. Sometimes she had problems to run side to side.”

Williams’ loss was the only surprise on the women’s side. In fourth-round matches, second-seeded Lindsay Davenport of Newport Beach beat Magui Serna of Spain, 6-1, 6-0, 16th-seeded Nathalie Tauziat of France beat Samantha Smith of England, 6-3, 6-1, and sixth-seeded Monica Seles defeated 14th-seeded Sandrine Testud of France, 6-3, 6-2.

In third-round matches, No. 3-seeded Jana Novotna of the Czech Republic, No. 5 Arantxa Sanchez Vicario, No. 10 Irina Spirlea of Romania and No. 15 Dominique Van Roost of Belgium all advanced in straight sets.

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But Williams’ departure stood out because of the timing and because two other players with injuries received on-court treatment and got through their matches--third-seeded Petr Korda of the Czech Republic and sixth-seeded Patrick Rafter of Australia. Korda defeated John van Lottum of the Netherlands and Rafter lost to Tim Henman of England.

"[Serena] is a fighter, a great competitor, hates to lose,” HBO commentator Barry MacKay said. “I think she thought she was going to play her sister.”

Ruano-Pascual played her best Grand Slam on French Open clay in 1995 when she lost in the quarterfinals. Before 1998, she had reached the second round at Wimbledon only once.

By leaving the court, Williams could say she had not lost to a player ranked 47th, who had never gone past the second round at Wimbledon. In fact, Venus Williams made that distinction immediately after her third-round victory over Rubin.

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“She didn’t lose,” Venus Williams said. “She retired.”

Said Ruano-Pascual, “Yeah, I think that I can beat her, 7-5, 4-1, two breaks [of serve]. She couldn’t play, no problem, but she lose.”

Serena Williams did not think Ruano-Pascual was a difficult opponent. “I don’t think so, really,” she said. “I just think she played pretty good today. She probably wanted to do well. But I think if I was in better shape, it wouldn’t have been happening at all.”

Ruano-Pascual was asked by a Spanish reporter how she felt about beating the player everyone says will eventually become No. 1. “If everybody said she is going to be No. 1, I guess she has to change something about her attitude,” she said. “A player cannot go out on the court this way . . . obviously without shaking hands with the winner.”

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(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX / INFOGRAPHIC)

Today’s Featured Matches

MEN’S SINGLES

* Pete Sampras (1) vs. Sebastien Grosjean, France.

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* Wayne Ferreira, South Africa, vs. Richard Krajicek (9), Netherlands.

* Goran Ivanisevic (14), Croatia, vs. Todd Martin.

WOMEN’S SINGLES

* Martina Hingis (1), Switzerland, vs. Tamarine Tanasugarn, Thailand.

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* Jana Novotna (3), Czech Republic, vs. Irina Spirlea (10), Romania.

* Virginia Ruano-Pascual, Spain, vs. Venus Williams (7).

* Dominique Van Roost (15), Belgium, vs. Arantxa Sanchez Vicario (5), Spain.


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