The worst Grand Slam showing by American players in the open era came to an embarrassing end.
The ouster of Monica Seles, Venus Williams and Chanda Rubin at the French Open on Tuesday meant no American women survived the quarterfinals in a tournament that already featured the departure of all the American men in the first three rounds.
Never before in any major since the open era began in 1968 has the entire U.S. contingent gone down so feebly.
The wipeout of the final Americans came in a variety of ways, from top-seeded Martina Hingis' 6-1, 6-3 rout of Rubin, to the No. 6 Mary Pierce's rousing 4-6, 6-3, 6-4 victory over the No. 3 Seles, to No. 8 Arantxa Sanchez-Vicario's 6-0, 1-6, 6-2 rollercoaster ride past Williams.
Hingis, trying to claim the only major trophy missing from her home in Switzerland, will meet Pierce in the semifinals on Thursday.
"It's not that I need it necessarily to live my life," Hingis said, trying to play down the importance of winning this year after her emotional loss to Steffi Graf a year ago. "I need the oxygen, probably, to survive, but not the French Open."
Pierce, a finalist in 1994 but an early-round flop in nine other appearances, doesn't have to win to survive, either. But she surely would like to become the first Frenchwoman since Francoise Durr in 1967 to win at Roland Garros.
Pierce certainly was buoyed by a spectacular running, leaping between-the-legs winner against Seles in the first set, an acrobatic display that looked a little like the plays her fiance, Cleveland Indians star Roberto Alomar, makes at second base.
"That's my favorite shot, actually," said Pierce, who caught up to the backhand volley by Seles and lobbed it perfectly over her head into the corner. "It's a bad habit for me. I'm not supposed to do it very much, but I love to do it. I just was running to the ball, then all of a sudden it was kind of like right there. It was the only thing I could do."
The French fans, cool toward the Canadian-born Pierce in her early years here, roared not just on that point but throughout the match, embracing her lovingly while rudely cheering Seles' errors and faults.
Pierce rode that support to a comeback after blowing a 2-0 lead in the final set as she broke to 4-3 with the help of two double-faults by Seles.
"In a match as tight as today, where both players are playing very well and both wnt to win, you really cannot let those mistakes creep in at those times," Seles said.
In the other semis, Sanchez-Vicario, the three-time French Open champion, will take on Spanish compatriot Conchita Martinez, who beat another Spaniard, 17-year-old Marta Marrero, 7-6 (5), 6-1.
Reaching the men's semifinals were 1997 champion Gustavo Kuerten, who rallied from a break down in the fourth set to beat 1996 champion Yevgeny Kafelnikov 6-3, 3-6, 4-6, 6-4, 6-2, and No. 16 Juan Carlos Ferrero, who beat Spanish compatriot and No. 10 Alex Corretja 6-4, 6-4, 6-2.
In the completion of rain-interrupted fourth-round matches begun Monday, Spain's Albert Costa beat No. 9 Lleyton Hewitt 6-3, 4-6, 6-2, 6-4, and unseeded Argentine Franco Squillari downed Younes El Aynaoui 6-4, 6-1, 6-3.
For Venus Williams, the loss was not unexpected. Playing only her third tournament since last November after a bout of tendinitis in both wrists, she faced one of the best clay-court players of the open era.
Rather than try to impose her net game on Sanchez-Vicario, Williams got caught up playing to the Spaniard's strength in long rallies. Very few women have ever beaten Sanchez-Vicario by trading baseline shots and moonballs, and Williams couldn't, either, as she committed 48 unforced errors.
"Even when I'm stepping into a lot of my shots, she was getting them back," Williams said. "When I was coming in, she was lobbing. On a grass court, I think maybe she wouldn't have as much time."
"The level of my game is not anywhere near normal. Each shot I have to think about. Under any normal conditions, I don't have to think about my shots."
On another chilly day at Roland Garros, with temperatures in the 50s before the sun broke out in the late afternoon, Williams had a hard time getting started. She committed 20 errors in losing the first five games.
Williams rebounded in the second set but fell behind 3-0 in the third and looked increasingly tired as she lost a succession of long points from the baseline. By the end, Williams was mutterig to herself between points.
The tournament was her last chance to win a Grand Slam title as a teen-ager. She turns 20 on June 17, nine days before Wimbledon begins.
Sanchez-Vicario won the French Open as a 17-year-old in 1989, and again in 1994 and 1998.
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