Williams' run ends in angry, tearful exit Rising star, 18, ousted by Novotna

Hingis in Wimbledon semis

July 02, 1998|By Bill Glauber | Bill Glauber,SUN FOREIGN STAFF

WIMBLEDON, England -- Venus Williams shouted in anger, wept in frustration and lost to Jana Novotna yesterday.

But she also left a calling card: She may soon own Wimbledon.

With her fire and forehands, Williams battled Novotna for 94 minutes in the Wimbledon women's quarterfinals, playing serve-and-volley tennis with the best in the business. She

pumped her fist when she slammed winners. And she fumed over controversial calls and stamped her feet like a Generation X John McEnroe.

In the end, it was Novotna who emerged with the hard-fought, 7-5, 7-6 (7-2) victory. Yet it was Williams who somehow added to her mystique as a star on the rise.

"I didn't take any steps backward," Williams said. "Overall, I had a good time. I would have liked to have won. But it's too late now. I'll have to wait until next year."

She gave Wimbledon a charge. And she showed why women's tennis is on the rise, with its added depth and young stars who possess talent and heart.

In today's semifinals, No. 3 Novotna will face No. 1 seed and reigning champion Martina Hingis, who outlasted No. 5 Arantxa Sanchez Vicario, 6-3, 3-6, 6-3.

The other semifinal will pit the tournament's two big surprises: No. 16 Nathalie Tauziat against unseeded Natasha Zvereva.

Tauziat defeated No. 2 Lindsay Davenport, 6-3, 6-3. Zvereva, who earlier defeated Steffi Graf, continued her upset march by shocking No. 6 Monica Seles, 7-6 (7-4), 6-2.

But the main event on Centre Court was Williams-Novotna. This was a test to see how far and fast Williams, 18, had come in the last year. With her big serves, the No. 7 seed could knock around the pushovers in the earlier rounds. Yet Novotna is 29, a two-time Wimbledon finalist and no pushover on grass.

The players slugged it out, Novotna moving forward in the first set, cutting off the passing shots with daring volleys and grabbing the lead.

But there was Williams in the second set, dishing out her own volleys, trying to climb back into the match. And then she nearly unraveled after a couple of line calls went against her in the seventh game and she lost her serve with a double fault. She walked up to the chair umpire and shouted: "I know it was out." Then she pointed to Novotna and shouted: "She knows it was out." She pointed to people in the crowd and screamed louder: "They know it was out." Then, finally: "But you don't know it's out."

And then, she sat down, picked up a towel and cried.

"I think the crowd probably enjoyed my emotional outbursts," Williams said. "I guess someone would turn the channel and suddenly see some girl screaming and keep it there, because I know I would. It probably brightened up someone's day."

Actually, Novotna was more than pleased to see her younger rival coming unglued.

"I made Venus desperate at times," Novotna said.

"In every match, there are some things you're not happy with," added Novotna, who wept after losing in her first Wimbledon final. "I think she lost it there for a while. Maybe she had a good reason, but that is what happens to everybody."

Williams was mad. And she actually got even, taking the second set into a tiebreaker.

"I was more than willing to try to get that win," Williams said.

But then her game broke down under the tiebreaker pressure, as she sent one last forehand into the net. She shook hands with her opponent and the umpire, grabbed her rackets and then marched off the court, a smile breaking across her face.

"Next year, I don't think there's anything that should be stopping me, except for me," she said.

She left it to four others to battle for this year's title.

Novotna is seeking redemption for past failures in the finals. What would a title here mean to her?

"I guess it would mean that the hard work finally paid off," she said.

But to reach her goal, she'll have to get by Hingis in a rematch of last year's final. Hingis hasn't impressed anyone here with the speed and depth of her serves or even all of her ground strokes. But all she does is win.

"Now, here's Wimbledon and I'm back in the semifinals again," said Hingis, who has reached eight straight Grand Slam semifinals.

The Zvereva-Tauziat match may not appear to be a headliner, but these women fought hard to reach the semifinals.

Before this tournament, Zvereva had lost 17 straight to Graf and four straight to Seles. But she beat them both, concentrating on all the points for the first time in her career.

"I think it's wonderful," Zvereva said. "I play pretty steady from the baseline, and I don't go for many shots. I just try to put them deep."

Seles, who many believed had a good chance to win her first Wimbledon, said she was mystified by her play.

"It was just my performance that really bugs me," she said.

Tauziat was thrilled to reach the semifinals for the first time in 43 Grand Slam attempts.

"I showed I can play faster and better than anybody else," Tauziat said.

Pub Date: 7/02/98

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