PARIS (AP) – Lindsay Davenport phoned home with news every bit as shocking to her husband at it was to herself.

She had just reached the French Open quarterfinals Sunday by beating two-time finalist Kim Clijsters, coming back from a set and a break down and winning her fourth straight three-setter at the Grand Slam event where she had played the least and done the worst. Just a month ago, Davenport considered skipping it altogether, no matter that she was ranked No. 1.

It was 12:46 p.m. in Paris, 3:46 a.m. back home in California, when Davenport watched Clijsters’ final forehand sail long to end the match 1-6, 7-5, 6-3. Looking more surprised than elated, celebrating only with a nod and a momentarily clenched fist, Davenport walked off and reached for her cell phone to call her husband, Jon Leach.

“I had to wake him up,” said Davenport, who will meet 2000 champion Mary Pierce in the quarters. “He was floored.”

So was everyone else.

The only American, male or female, left in the French among the 22 who started the tournament, Davenport still thinks it’s way too early to talk about her winning the title. Now, at least, in the No. 21-seeded Pierce, she faces a player with similarly hard, flat strokes in a match that’s more to her liking. Pierce had to go to 11 match points before beating No. 8 Patty Schnyder, 6-1, 1-6, 6-4.

Davenport has hardly been the only surprise of this year’s French. Fifteen-year-old Sesil Karatantcheva, the Bulgarian who upset Venus Williams in the third round, advanced to the quarters by downing Emmanuelle Gagliardi 7-5, 6-3.

“I was basically scared to win,” Karatantcheva said. “I guess the pressure really is getting to me. I hope for the quarters I’ll be more relaxed.”

Karatantcheva will play No. 16 Elena Likhovtseva of Russia, a 7-6 (3), 5-7, 7-5 victor over No. 4 Elena Dementieva. Another Russian, No. 7 Nadia Petrova reached the quarters with a 7-5, 3-6, 6-4 victory over No. 12 Elena Bovina.

Rain suspended play in the evening with Russia’s Maria Sharapova leading Spain’s Nuria Llagostera Vives 6-2, 3-3.

Men’s No. 1 Roger Federer advanced easily to the quarters for the first time since 2001, beating 1998 champ and No. 14 seed Carlos Moya 6-1, 6-4, 6-3. Federer, seeking the only major title he doesn’t own, next goes against unseeded Victor Hanescu, who upset No. 10 David Nalbandian 6-3, 4-6, 5-7, 6-1, 6-2.

The match between No. 4 Rafael Nadal of Spain and No. 23 Sebastien Grosjean of France was suspended by rain. Nadal led 6-4, 3-6, 3-0.

No. 9 Guillermo Canas and No. 28 Nicolas Kiefer set up a quarterfinal duel after completing victories in third-round matches suspended Saturday because of darkness. Canas overcame two match points to edge Frenchman Paul-Henri Mathieu 6-3, 7-6 (4), 2-6, 6-7 (5), 8-6. Kiefer defeated Igor Andreev 6-4, 7-6 (7), 3-6, 6-4.

Clijsters had beaten Davenport six straight times over the past two years, all on the hardcourts that Davenport prefers, and hadn’t dropped a set in her first three matches.

this tournament. Despite white bandages wrapped around her right leg, from her thigh to her calf, to take the pressure off her recently injured knee, the Belgian was playing fluidly, neither limping nor restraining herself in any way.

The first set made sense: Clijsters breezing, winning in 20 minutes, Davenport struggling to find her footing on the slippery red clay that has always given her trouble. Davenport had won the Australian, Wimbledon, U.S. Open and the Olympics, but the best of her 10 previous visits to the French was the semifinals in 1998. She was stopped in the fourth round at Roland Garros the past two years, missed the two years before that with injuries, and went out in the first round in 2000. The last time she reached the quarters here was 1999.

Against lesser opponents in the first three rounds this past week, Davenport eventually found her stride enough to carve out three-set wins. Against Clijsters, that seemed unlikely.

But the unlikely happened, thanks to Clijsters’ gift of 11 double faults and a flurry of other unforced errors after she had taken a 3-1 lead in the second set. Davenport stepped up the pressure, returning serves with more authority, following shots in, keeping Clijsters back. It was never a work of art, but Davenport made the most of her newfound opportunity.

“She’s been winning ugly, but she’s showed glimpses of great tennis and flashes of subpar tennis,” Davenport’s coach, Adam Peterson, said.

A year ago, Davenport thought her career might be over. Her right knee hurt, she had been happily married for a year, and she was getting tired of the grind of the tour. But she kept playing, started winning, and surprised herself and everyone else by reaching No. 1 again without winning a Grand Slam title.

A month ago, she thought about skipping the French once more and just preparing for Wimbledon. She put her racket away for a while, took a vacation to Mexico, and wasn’t eager to make the trip to Paris. Urged on by her husband and agent to give the clay one more shot, she ventured out with little confidence – especially against Clijsters.

“There’s obviously a lot of things stacked against me going into this match,” Davenport said. “I mean, being on clay, playing against somebody that you don’t have a great record against, struggling the previous matches here, and being down 6-1, 3-1. All of those are not easy obstacles to overcome. Despite all of it, I was able to kind of push through and still come out on top.

“I was probably as surprised as anybody when it was all said and done.”

AP-ES-05-29-05 1414EDT


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