No secrets in rivalry

When Lindsay Davenport and Venus Williams meet today for the 27th time, it will be for all the marbles.

Associated Press
Published July 2, 2005

WIMBLEDON, England - Lindsay Davenport left Wimbledon last year thinking she probably had played her last match at the All England Club. Now she is not only back, she's in the final.

Today she'll try for her fourth Grand Slam title and first since 2000 when she faces two-time champion Venus Williams.

Davenport reached her second major final of the season, but first at Wimbledon in five years, by finishing her rain-suspended 6-7 (5-7), 7-6 (7-4), 6-4 victory over Amelie Mauresmo on Friday.

"It's pretty amazing," said Davenport, the 1999 champion. "I've come through a very tough draw here playing a lot of good players. To be in the finals and come through these tough matches is pretty exhilarating. Hopefully, it works out."

The 29-year-old Californian talked of retirement after losing last year in the semifinals to Maria Sharapova. She changed her mind after winning four consecutive hard-court titles last summer, then claimed the No.1 ranking for the sixth time in October and reached the Australian Open final in January before losing to Serena Williams.

Venus Williams has revived her career to earn her first berth in a major final since sister Serena beat her for the 2003 Wimbledon crown. Davenport leads the rivalry 14-12 and has won the past four meetings. But Williams has won all three times they've played at Wimbledon, including in the 2000 final for the first of her four major titles.

"I've played her by far more than anyone I've ever played on tour," Davenport said. "Yet we've both gone through so many transitions. But we both have kind of evolved quite a bit and still play these close, crazy matches."

Davenport's semifinal match against Mauresmo could also be described as close and crazy.

It started Thursday after a four-hour rain delay and was moved from Centre Court to Court 1. Then, with the top-ranked Davenport just four points from victory in the final set and Mauresmo serving, more rain forced them off the court for the night.

When play resumed nearly 18 hours later, Mauresmo held serve at love, and Davenport did the same to win the final game.

"Anyone would die to be in a position to serve for a match on grass in the semis of Wimbledon, so I had all that on my side," Davenport said. "But it was such a tough 24 hours. To come back in that situation, it was brutal."

Williams won the 2001 title and finished runnerup to her sister in 2002 and 2003. She returned to the final by beating defending champion Sharapova 7-6 (7-2), 6-1.

Sharapova was seeded 13th last year when she became the lowest-seeded player to win the women's championship. Venus is seeded 14th this year.

"I'm pretty much in the moment right now," Williams said. "Most of all, I feel like I deserve to be where I am."

Williams hasn't dropped a set in the tournament and has lost only 31 games in six matches, including wins against Jill Craybas - who stunned Serena in the third round - and French Open finalist Mary Pierce.

Davenport lost eight games in the first three rounds, won a three-setter against Kim Clijsters, then eliminated U.S. Open champion Svetlana Kuznetsova before beating Mauresmo for the seventh time in a row.