Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Venus Escapes an Upset

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Venus Escapes an Upset

Article excerpt

NEW YORK -- Venus Williams, as wild as the weather in a first-set fiasco, escaped an upset yesterday at the U.S. Open after Mary Joe Fernandez strained a leg muscle skidding on a slippery court.

A rainy, blustery fringe of tropical storm Dennis delayed the start of play, interrupted every match and caused the postponement of eight others.

But the worst effect of the weather came from a light sprinkle that hit early in the second set of the Williams-Fernandez match and totally changed the outcome.

Williams, seeded No. 3, reached the quarterfinals with a 2-6, 6-1, 6-0 victory that stemmed entirely from a fall by Fernandez when she slipped on a wet spot chasing a shot behind the baseline.

Fernandez served superbly and broke an erratic Williams three times in the first set but was never the same after falling in the third game of the second set and straining the quadriceps muscle in her right leg.

Play was suspended at that point for about an hour and a half, and Fernandez was able to use the time to receive treatment from a trainer. Fernandez returned with her upper right leg wrapped, but her movement clearly was limited as she ran more slowly and played more tentatively. She managed to hold serve to 3-1, but lost the next nine games as Williams picked up her own game.

"It was definitely related to the rain," Fernandez said. "It started to sprinkle and the court gets very, very slippery right away. My foot just slid."

Fernandez hadn't wanted to stop at the time, but in hindsight wished that she had said something to the umpire about halting play when the rain started to fall.

"I should have," she said. "I didn't."

The rain had interrupted the match earlier, with Fernandez leading the first set 5-1.

"It was kind of the same thing," Fernandez said. …

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