Serena Williams had a solid showing on clay at the Family Circle Cup. Her focus, though, was an ocean away and the grand slam title she'd love to once again add to her Hall-of-Fame legacy.
"I'm always ready to win the French Open," she said Thursday, "and I never do."
This year could be different if Williams keeps playing this well on clay. She reached the quarterfinals of her first event on the surface this season with a steady, 6-2, 6-2 victory over Marina Erackovic. Williams showed off some big serves and laser-like ground strokes as she attempts to capture a tournament title she won once before in 2008.
Williams said she was more comfortable in her second match on clay, moving better and reacting more crisply during the longer points that come with the slower surface.
"So I felt good," Williams said. "I love the clay."
It doesn't always love her back, especially at Roland Garros. Williams, a 13-time grand slam titlist, won her only French Open crown in 2002. She lost in the semifinals the next year, then has not gotten past the quarterfinals in five trips since. Paris is "my favorite city in the world," Williams said. "I hate leaving there."
So imagine how much it must gall the ultra-competitive Williams when she leaves without the victory.
First things first, though.
Williams will face 2009 Family Circle champ Sabine Lisicki on Friday. Should the 30-year-old American prevail, older sister Venus Williams could be waiting in the semifinals.
Venus beat Anastasia Rodionova in a third-round match Wednesday 7-5, 6-2.
"I hope we both get there," Serena said of Saturday sibling showdown. "I mean, I have to win another match."
If Serena Williams continues progressing that should be a problem.
Williams and Erakovic traded ground strokes early on with the 24-year-old New Zealander prevailing in a game to tie the opening set at 2-all that took nearly 15 minutes to play.
Williams, annoyed she played through seven deuces and still lost, cranked it up after that to take control, winning the final four games to capture the set.
Erakovic was overmatched the rest of the way, often watching from the baseline as Williams' shots flew past for winners. At one point, Williams swung and missed as Erackovic's lob shot flew over, yet caught up with the ball moments later on the bounce and flipped it over the net for a winner. Williams switched sides with a huge grin on her face.
"I'm really excited to be playing some matches here because it really gives you confidence in the things that you want to work on, not just for today and tomorrow, but the rest of the clay-court season," Williams said.
Williams had aces clocked at 120 and 121 mph in the final set. Erakovic double faulted to end the match.
Williams won 10 of the last 12 games to advance.
Third-seeded Marion Bartoli wasn't so fortunate. She gave up a 4-2 lead in the third set to lose to No. 14 seed Polona Hercog.
Ninth seed Lucie Safarova defeated Alexsandra Wozniak and 13th-seeded Nadia Petrova, the 2006 winner here, ousted Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova.
Samantha Sour, the 2010 Family Circle winner and highest seed left here at No. 2, had her match against Galina Voskoboeva postponed by rain on Thursday night with Stosur leading 4-2 in the first set. They'll resume the match at 11 A.M. on Friday. If Stosur goes on to win, she'll have to play again later in the afternoon against Venus Williams.
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