Williams Regains Look in Defeating Stevenson


The rust was slow in coming off her game, but by the third set, Serena Williams started to look more like the reigning U.S. Open champion, not the player who lost in the fourth round at the Australian Open.

Her groundstrokes began staying in the court, and she ripped a few passing shots past her opponent and childhood friend, Alexandra Stevenson, winning the second-round match, 7-5, 3-6, 6-2, at the Indian Wells Tennis Masters Series on Saturday. Stevenson stayed in it with her big serve, hitting 13 aces.

“I just never give up,” said Williams, the defending champion. “I fight ‘til the end. I can’t accept not fighting. I have that never-say-die spirit.


“You can’t go out and say, ‘I want a bag of never-say-die spirit.’ It’s not for sale. It has to be innate.”

Stevenson has found it difficult to find a measure of consistency since reaching the semifinals at Wimbledon as a qualifier.

She has won only three matches in 2000, but, Williams, gracious in victory, found room for words of encouragement at the net afterward. It was the first time they had played. Williams usually was a spectator when her older sister, Venus, played Stevenson in their junior days in Southern California.

“She [Serena] told me I was there,” Stevenson said. “She said, ‘Great match, you’re there.’ It’s funny. I’m kind of considered the baby of the three because I started late. I guess if Serena said I’m there, then I’m getting pretty close.”

After an erratic start, the Williams-Stevenson match featured some of the best shot-making of the long day. In a curious decision, Saturday’s action on the main stadium court started with a men’s qualifying match, pushing back women’s second-round play.

Second-seeded Lindsay Davenport, who defeated Irina Spirlea of Romania, 6-0, 6-1, in 39 minutes, was supposed to play a day match, but did not take the court until after 7 p.m. A couple of outside courts featured three men’s qualifying matches before the women played.


“This is the only tournament where we overlap with the qualies,” Davenport said. “I didn’t care that the men were playing in front of me. I just cared that I was so late.”

Scheduling problems were supposed to be alleviated with the new, larger site, but Julie Halard-Decugis of France finished her match on Court 3 after 8 because a men’s qualifying match started play, followed by three women’s matches before she played against Angeles Montolio of Spain.

The biggest upset on Saturday came with the departure of 12th-seeded Jennifer Capriati. Cara Black of Zimbabwe defeated Capriati, 5-7, 6-1, 6-2, in another second-round match.

Two other seeded players lost. Elena Dementieva of Russia defeated No. 14 Anke Huber of Germany, 6-4, 4-6, 6-4, and Kim Clijsters of Belgium defeated No. 13 Amelie Mauresmo of France after Mauresmo retired in the first set because of a lower back strain.


The men’s event begins Monday and the top-seeded players are Andre Agassi, Pete Sampras, Yevgeny Kafelnikov of Russia, Nicolas Kiefer of Germany, Gustavo Kuerten of Brazil, Magnus Norman of Sweden, Marcelo Rios of Chile and Nicolas Lapentti of Ecuador.

Kafelnikov is in the same half of the draw as Sampras. Also with them are Kuerten, Rios, 10th-seeded Thomas Enqvist of Sweden and No. 12 Mark Philippoussis of Australia, the defending champion. Sampras will play Andrei Medvedev of Ukraine in the first round.


Agassi, who will meet Hicham Arazi of Morocco in the opening round, is in the same half of the draw as Kiefer, Lapentti, Norman, No. 11 Patrick Rafter of Australia and No. 13 Tim Henman of Britain.


Featured Matches

Today at Indian Wells Tennis Masters Series; Matches begin at 10 a.m.:


* Martina Hingis, Switzerland vs. Ai Sugiyama, Japan

* Anna Kournikova, Russia

vs. Nathalie Dechy, France

* Natasha Zvereva, Belarus

vs. Lindsay Davenport

* Patty Schnyder, Switzerland

vs. Monica Seles

* Serena Williams

vs. Rita Grande, Italy