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Serena bounced from Italian Open

Schnyder takes advantage on clay

Switzerland's Patty Schnyder showed her strength, muscling past mistake-prone Serena Williams in the quarterfinals of the Italian Open. (GIAMPIERO SPOSITO/REUTERS)

ROME -- Serena Williams hasn't played the French Open in three years and hardly seems ready for this month's clay-court major.

She made an array of mistakes yesterday in her final match before the French, losing to Patty Schnyder, 6-3, 2-6, 7-6 (7-5), in the Italian Open quarterfinals.

"I'm going to obviously want to work harder and just do some things differently," Williams said. "Where I am today, in Paris I'll probably be even better."

In the semifinals, Schnyder will face third-seeded Jelena Jankovic, who routed Elena Dementieva, 6-2, 6-1. Second-seeded Svetlana Kuznetsova beat sixth-seeded Dinara Safina, 6-1, 6-3, in an all-Russian match and will play ninth-seeded Daniela Hantuchova, who beat unseeded Anabel Medina Garrigues 7-6 (10-8), 7-5.

This was Williams's third loss this season. She began 2007 by winning the Australian Open for her first major title in two years.

"I just didn't make the shots I was supposed to make," said Williams, who was seeded eighth. "I probably made 50 unforced errors, which is pretty good to get to 7-6 in the third."

Williams captured her first two matches in Rome in straight sets and won only three fewer points than Schnyder.

"It's good to be here on the red clay and get some good matches and a lot of long points under your belt," Williams said.

Last month, Williams retired from a match in Charleston, S.C., because of a groin problem and pulled out of a Fed Cup match because of an inflamed right knee. She missed the last two French Opens with knee and ankle injuries.

"Actually, not winning today is going to work well for me," she said. "I'm going to get even more fit."

Williams does not plan to play before Roland Garros, which begins May 27.

"I think the best thing for me now is practice," she said. "I feel like I'll really enjoy myself there."

Schnyder, seeded 14th and runner-up in Rome two years ago, beat Williams in their only previous match on clay. Williams won the other six meetings.

"I have more time to think and I think it's her weakest surface," Schnyder said. "I'm extremely happy that I could do it again this year because she's the champion to beat this year."

Williams was off on her backhand and committed double-faults in the first set. Schnyder, a Swiss lefthander with a crafty game, simply kept the ball in play.

"I don't have the big muscles, the height, and so I need to get something special to my game and that's what I work on," Schnyder said. "I can play all the spins, the slice and kick and the fast serve."

Schnyder took a 2-0 lead in the second set before Williams reeled off six straight games to force a third set. Neither player dropped serve in the final set, and Schnyder jumped ahead, 5-2, in the tiebreaker. Williams crawled back to 5-5, then netted a forehand on the next point. Schnyder hit a winner on an approach shot on her first match point.

Schnyder reached the German Open quarterfinals last week and will be playing in her first semifinal of the year.