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Serena swats away

Serena Williams battled the elements and No. 3 seed Lindsay Davenport. She beat both.

By SHARON GINN

© St. Petersburg Times,
published September 5, 2001


photo
[AP photo]
Tenth seed Serena Williams reacts after beating Lindsay Davenport 6-3, 6-7 (7-9), 7-5. Williams will face No. 1 Martina Hingis in the semifinals Friday.
NEW YORK -- First came the rain, then the bugs, and for quite a while Tuesday, the irritants of nature were more interesting than the tennis.

Then Serena Williams finally shooed Lindsay Davenport away.

Davenport proved harder to get rid of than the flying insects swirling around Arthur Ashe Stadium on Tuesday night. U.S. Open officials brought out huge fans to blow away the bugs, but Williams needed all the weapons in her arsenal -- her serve, her backhand, every ounce of determination -- to eliminate third-seeded Davenport 6-3, 6-7 (7-9), 7-5 and advance to the semifinals.

It was sweet retribution for Williams, the 10th seed and 1999 Open champion who lost to Davenport last year in the quarterfinals. After she slugged a winner past Davenport to end the 2-hour, 14-minute match, Williams screamed and bounded off the court.

"Obviously, I'm tired of losing close matches," Williams said. "I really, really wanted to win this match."

On Friday she'll play No. 1 Martina Hingis, possibly for the right to meet sister Venus -- the 2000 Open champion who has yet to drop a set here this year -- in the final.

Her inspiration for the victory? None other than Venus, who advised her recently that champions win tight matches. Evidently it worked.

"It seems she has a slight pattern of doing that, letting someone back in the match," Davenport said. "It seems like she's getting better at dealing with it."

The top seeds, meanwhile, had no trouble advancing.

Hingis needed 42 minutes to end Daja Bedanova's run. Bedanova, who upset No. 7 seed Monica Seles on Sunday, fell 6-2, 6-0. And two days after rallying from a two-set deficit to advance to the fourth round, Gustavo Kuerten dispatched unseeded Albert Costa in three sets, 6-4, 6-4, 7-6 (9-7) to get to the quarterfinals.

American phenom Andy Roddick, chasing his second Open championship -- he won the boys title last year -- continued his dominant play. In 44 fewer minutes than it took Williams to beat Davenport, the No. 18 seed and crowd favorite eliminated unseeded Tommy Robredo 6-2, 6-2, 6-4 in his third night match of the Open.

"I don't believe it," Roddick said. "It's like I'm supposed to wake up any minute now, or something. But I'm going to try to stay asleep."

Rain suspended Yevgeny Kafelnikov's match against Arnaud Clement, but couldn't stop the inevitable. The seventh-seeded Kafelnikov easily won the first two sets, then cruised after returning to the court for a 6-3, 6-4, 6-3 victory. Another men's singles match was suspended because of rain and will resume this morning: No. 16 seed Tommy Haas led No. 4 Lleyton Hewitt 6-3, 2-2.

Though rain threatened again before the Davenport-Williams match, the real threat was that Davenport would wash out of the Open in two quick sets.

After Davenport missed out on a chance to break Williams at 3-3 in the first set, Williams won that game, broke Davenport on the next one, then held serve to close out the set. Davenport won just one of the set's final 12 points.

Davenport failed to hold serve to open the second, then watched helplessly as Williams smacked two aces to take a 2-0 lead. The crowd, at one point seeming to favor Williams, pleaded with Davenport to make a match of it.

Finally, she did.

After falling behind 3-1, she won 12 of 15 points -- including aces of 103 and 104 mph -- and broke Williams once. In the second-set tiebreaker, Davenport fought off two match points and Williams' aggressive play at the net to finally pull it out and force a third.

Again Williams dominated -- and again Davenport rallied. Even a 3-0 third-set lead and a double break point couldn't do it. Davenport won the game, and the next.

Williams broke back. She then served to 40-0, one point from a 5-2 lead. Good enough? Hardly. Williams double-faulted, and Davenport leaped through the open door, breaking her back.

"I was always in a hole, coming back," Davenport said.

But her luck ran out before she could force another tiebreaker. Davenport couldn't hold serve in the final game.

"A couple points, I would have won," she said.

Instead, Williams advanced to her third Grand Slam semifinal.

"I had my chances in the second, too -- should have held my serve -- but in the third, I had a chance to be up 4-0 and I just blew it," Williams said. "That's when I told myself, no matter what I do, no matter how hard I wish, I couldn't pay a person to rewind time. ... I was able to get over it after that."

U.S. Open

TUESDAY'S HIGHLIGHTS

MEN: Yevgeny Kafelnikov (7) d. Arnaud Clement (12), 6-3, 6-4, 6-3; Gustavo Kuerten (1) d. Albert Costa 6-4, 6-4, 7-6 (9-7).

WOMEN: Serena Williams (10) d. Lindsay Davenport (3), 6-3, 6-7 (7-9), 6-4; Martina Hingis (1) d. Daja Bedanova, 6-2, 6-0.

TODAY'S FEATURED MATCHES

MEN: Andre Agassi (2) vs. Pete Sampras (10)

WOMEN: Kim Clijsters (5) vs. Venus Williams (4); Amelie Mauresmo (8) vs. Jennifer Capriati (2).

TODAY ON TV: 11 a.m. and 7 p.m., USA.

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