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Sloppy or not, Serena has Capriati's number

Williams improves to 17-0 this year by winning a three-setter for the Nasdaq-100 title.

By KEITH NIEBUHR, Times Staff Writer

© St. Petersburg Times, published March 30, 2003

KEY BISCAYNE -- Serena Williams, by her own admission, has slacked off in recent weeks.

Hasn't practiced much. Hasn't been to the gym. And get this, the other day she ate a Snickers candy bar.

"I think my trainer's upset about that," Williams said.

If Williams' self-described laziness is catching up to her, you'd have a hard time convincing Saddlebrook's Jennifer Capriati.

In Saturday's Nasdaq-100 Open final before an announced 11,861 at the Tennis Center at Crandon Park, the top-ranked Williams overcame early miscues and dominated the third set to beat the fifth-ranked Capriati 4-6, 6-4, 6-1.

"I can't keep doing it like that," Williams said. "There are people out there who are working hard and coming closer."

Williams improved to 17-0 this year and is 61-4 since beating Capriati in last year's final. She has seven straight wins against Capriati, six of which went three sets.

Williams sprayed shots, struggled with her first-serve percentage and had 42 unforced errors, twice as many as Capriati. She even missed an overhead smash.

But by the third set Williams settled down, and Capriati began to fade. Williams had an 8-1 edge in winners, served two aces and broke Capriati's serve twice. After a call went against Capriati in the first game of the set she seemed flustered and never recovered.

"I have to say that I did (get tired)," said Capriati, who turned 27 Saturday and has lost in three straight Nasdaq finals. "It was pretty hot out here. Maybe the week took its toll on me a little bit.

"I came out playing great, just moving the ball around, not making many errors and going for my shots. That was a great first set for me. For some reason, instead of keeping up that kind of play, I just back away instead of moving up."

Williams surged to a 4-0 lead in the second set, but Capriati fought to make it 5-4. With a chance to tie it at 5 Capriati misfired on three consecutive shots to lose the set.

"Tenniswise I can definitely hang with her and match her shot for shot," Capriati said. "Obviously, she has a bigger serve, but that doesn't affect me much. It's just a matter of still getting in a little better shape and peaking."

Williams has the same plan.

"I'm going to go home and I'm not going to take time off," Williams said. "I'm actually going to practice for once."

AGASSI ADVANCES: Eight-time Grand Slam champion Andre Agassi continued his impressive run at the Nasdaq-100 Open with a 6-2, 6-4 victory in the semifinals over No.9 Albert Costa, the defending French Open champ. Agassi has won five titles here, including last year. This could be the first time he has won the same title six times. He plays Carlos Moya in today's final.

MAKE CLOTHES, NOT WAR: After beating Capriati, Williams, the reigning French Open champ, was asked about anti-French sentiment stemming from the war in Iraq. Williams responded in a facetious French accent. "Well, we don't want to play in the war," she said. "We want to make clothes. We don't want the war." Dropping the accent, Williams added, "I don't want a war either. I don't know many people who do want to be involved in the war."

-- Information from other news organizations was used in this report.

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