Paris turns against teen scream-queen De Brito

PORTUGUESE 16-year-old Michelle Larcher De Brito grunted her way into the limelight at the French Open on a day Venus Williams made her now customary early exit from Roland Garros.

While Williams, the third seed, was slipping to a fourth third-round defeat in five years here, Larcher De Brito was in front of the press defending the shrieks and squeals that made her public enemy number one during her defeat to France’s Aravane Rezai.

Rezai, who won 7-6 (7/3) 6-2 on Philippe Chatrier court, complained several times to the umpire about the often inappropriate noises coming from the other side of the net, not just as she struck the ball but also when her opponent made a mistake.

The highly-rated teenager is in danger of becoming known more for her grunts than her groundstrokes.

“It’s something natural,” said Larcher De Brito.

“I can’t all of a sudden stop grunting. It feels like something’s missing in my game if I stop.”

With her coach Nick Bollettieri having also coached Monica Seles and Maria Sharapova, two other grunters of the women’s game down the years, a pattern seems to be emerging.

But Larcher De Brito insisted: “It’s really myself out there. It’s got nothing to do with Bollettieri.”

The incident rather overshadowed the early exit of the elder Williams, who became the highest-ranked casualty of the tournament.

The American, who has never won the title at Roland Garros, was beaten 6-0 6-4 by 29th seed Agnes Szavay, of Hungary.

“I’m used to beating people 6-0. I’m not used to my shot not going in and losing a set 6-0. It just didn’t come together for me,” said Williams.

Szavay next plays Dominika Cibulkova, the 20th seed.

Elsewhere, reigning champion Ana Ivanovic and title favourite Dinara Safina continued their ruthless streaks at Roland Garros, both winning their third-round matches in little over an hour.

Eighth seed Ivanovic thrashed Iveta Benesova, ranked 35th in the world, 6-0 6-2.

Top seed Safina raced to a 6-2 6-0 victory over fellow Russian Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova on Court One to set up a meeting with Rezai.

Former world number one Maria Sharapova recovered from a dreadful start to advance into round four.

The Russian, who is ranked 102 in the world after having shoulder problems for the past year, beat Kazakhstan’s Yaroslava Shvedova 1-6 6-3 6-4.

Reigning men’s champion Rafael Nadal feels close to his best after ruthlessly dismissing Lleyton Hewitt to sweep into the fourth round of the French Open. The Spaniard, aiming for a fifth successive title at Roland Garros, was not entirely convincing in his opening two wins — over Marcos Daniel and Teimuraz Gabashvili – but he stepped up a gear today, smashing Hewitt 6-1 6-3 6-1.

Robin Soderling, the 23rd seed, is Nadal’s next opponent and he has warned the Swede about his improving form.

“I’ve improved a little bit every day. You must be playing well to beat Lleyton,” said Nadal.

“It’s an amazing result for me. I’m happy, really happy.”

Hewitt, the former world number one, admitted Nadal was in a different league on Philippe Chatrier court.

“He’s as good as he’s ever been right now,” said the Australian.

Third seed Andy Murray, who is a potential semi-final opponent for Nadal, moved into the fourth round at Roland Garros for the first time after opponent Janko Tipsarevic retired from their match with a hamstring injury.

The British number one was ahead 7/6 (7/3) 6-3 when the Serb pulled up, and is now in uncharted territory.

He plays Marin Cilic in round four.

Cilic, the 13th seed, beat 18th seed Radek Stepanek 6-1 7-6 (7-4) 6-3 yesterday, maintaining his record of not having dropped a set this tournament.

Earlier, fourth seed Novak Djokovic booked his place in the third round, beating Sergiy Stakhovsky 6-3 6-4 6-1.

Germany’s Kohlschreiber’s emerged triumphant after a marathon struggle with Ferrero, winning 6-4 2-6 6-4 6-7 (3/7) 6-3 in another match carried over from Thursday.

The third round kicked off yesterday with eighth seed Fernando Verdasco getting the better of fellow Spaniard and good friend Nicolas Almagro 6-2 7-6 (7/4) 7-6 (10/8).

Verdasco will next play Nikolay Davydenko, the only Russian remaining in the draw from the eight that started. The 10th seed eliminated Switzerland’s Stanislas Wawrinka, the 17th seed, 6-3 3-6 6-3 6-2.

Elsewhere, French wildcard Josselin Ouanna was brought back down to earth with a bump 7-5 6-3 7-5 by 12th seed Fernando Gonzalez.

Romanian Victor Hanescu was a surprise 6-4 6-4 6-2 winner over seventh seed Gilles Simon, one of France’s big hopes this tournament.

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