Norman and Safin Cruise Through Ronald Garros

Published June 3rd, 2000 - 02:00 GMT

Third seed Magnus Norman and 12th seed Marat Safin underlined their title credentials as they cruised into the last 16 of the men's singles at the French Open with straight sets victories here on Saturday. 

Sweden's Norman, the surprise leader of the ATP Champions Race, crushed Sargis Sargsian of Armenia 6-4, 6-1, 6-2 while rising Russian star Safin was equally impressive in dismissing Tommy Haas of Germany 7-6 (7/2), 6-3, 6-3. 

Norman won in 100min and now plays last year's beaten finalist Andrei Medvedev. 

Safin, commanding at the net and serving up nine aces for good measure, took 1hr 57min to advance against Haas and has now made the fourth round all three times he has played the event. 

Ukraine's Medvedev, wearing the same loose-fitting plaid shorts from last year, progressed by dispatching Argentina's Agustin Calleri 6-3, 3-6, 6-4, 6-3. 

"I'm playing very good. Forehand good. Backhand good. And my head is perfect," said Medvedev, who served up a delicious backhand drop shot to win. 

In the women's singles, two high-profile Spaniards advanced. 

Arantxa Sanchez-Vicario, title winner here in 1989, 1994 and 1998, had to come back from 2-5 down in the opening set of her match against compatriot Magui Serna before winning 7-5, 6-4 as sluggish Serna served up 10 double faults. 

Eighth-seeded Sanchez-Vicario, making her 14th appearance at Roland Garros, was then joined in the fourth round by former Wimbledon champion Conchita Martinez, seeded fifth. 

Martinez romped to a 6-1, 6-0 win over Italy's Silvia Farina to maintain her incredible record of having made at least the fourth round of the event in each of the last 13 years. 

"I had a difficult match the round before, but I felt I played a lot better today," said Martinez, who next faces Ai Sugiyama of Japan. 

The Spaniard said she would respect Sugiyama - but was quietly confident. 

"She's a very good player, who hits hard and flat from both sides, but I'm playing some good tennis too. I'm mixing up my game well and if I move her around hopefully I can win." 

Sanchez-Vicario now plays Barbara Schett, the Austrian 16th seed, who sped past Grand Slam debutante Giulia Casoni 6-2, 6-1 by out hitting her Italian opponent from the baseline. 

Schett, making her seventh appearance at Roland Garros, lost in the first round on her first five visits before making the third round last year. 

This will be her first fourth-round appearance and her success is in stark contrast to the first-round losses she suffered in her last two tournament appearances at Hilton Head and Hamburg. 

Fourth-seeded American Venus Williams walloped French wildcard Emilie Loit 6-2, 6-2 on a sunshine-bathed Suzanne Lenglen Court and will next meet Germany's Anke Huber, Medvedev's former partner. 

Huber, the 11th seed, reached the last 16 with a 6-2, 6-2 Center Court victory over Magdalena Grzybowska of Poland. 

Huber, 25 and a semi-finalist here back in 1993, had lost her only previous meeting with her Polish opponent only last month at the Italian Open - going down in straight sets - but here the boot was firmly on the other foot as she romped home in 57min. 

Huber was always the aggressor, hitting 20 outright winners while Grzybowska hampered her own efforts by tossing in seven double faults. 

Sugiyama, meanwhile, equaled her best-ever performance here by hammering Sylvia Plischke of Austria 6-4, 6-1 on Court One. 

Sugiyama, who whipped over a raft of lightning passing shots, served notice of her clay court abilities five years ago when she sped into the fourth round on her Parisian debut - but had failed to match that showing since. 

Sugiyama, a 24-year-old right-hander from Tokyo, has been hugely enjoying herself on the slow, red clay and one more win here would be her best performance at a Grand Slam. 

The delighted Japanese player waved and bowed to the crowd with a huge smile on her face after her win. 

"She barely made any unforced errors - she was really solid from the baseline," said Plischke -- (AFP)

© 2000 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)

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