Williamses try to level off semi foes

Mauresmo, Davenport strive for elite ranking just below Venus, Serena

U.S. Open

September 06, 2002|By Sandra McKee | Sandra McKee,SUN STAFF

NEW YORK - Defending U.S. Open champion Venus Williams looks so serene as she contemplates her semifinal match against No. 10 seed Amelie Mauresmo.

She sits straight in her chair before the crowd of interrogators who want to know what she sees in Mauresmo's game that might allow her to join the elite players just below the Williams sisters.

The Williams sisters, Venus and Serena, are the best the women's game has to offer here at the U.S. Open and that, nearly every player has said, is a level better than anyone else.

Today, Venus Williams will face Mauresmo and No. 1 Serena Williams will face No. 4 Lindsay Davenport. Should both Williamses win, it will set up an all-Williams final for the fourth time in five Grand Slam tournaments.

So Venus Williams, who is the two-time defending U.S. Open champion and the No. 2 seed, smiled almost beatifically at the question.

"I'm really not sure what her career can be," she said of Mauresmo, whom she has beaten in all four of their previous meetings. "I know what mine can be, and that's more or less what I focus on.

"I suppose she has all the potential in the world to do exactly what she wants. That's the best part about tennis. ... She's at the stage where she can go forward and try to win these matches. Fortunately, I'm at the stage where I've done it."

Mauresmo, who can play the baseline or come to the net, power the ball or hit a slice, advanced to her second Grand Slam semifinal by beating Jennifer Capriati in three sets. Capriati said she does not like playing Mauresmo because of the way she mixes up her game. That will not be the case for her opponent today.

"I do enjoy playing her," Williams said. "I think she hits a nice ball, at least for me. I like the way it sits."

On her way to the championship at Wimbledon, Serena Williams also enjoyed playing Mauresmo in the semifinals. Mauresmo allows that Serena was "just too good" that day, but she isn't sold on the idea that both sisters will make the finals.

"I think people are maybe going to get bored of seeing always the same final," she said. "I can't put myself in the crowd's position or the public, but to me, it gets a little bit irritating, you know, because you want to go out there and try to beat these guys.

"I will go out and play my game again, do my best, and we will see what happens."

Davenport, too, is eager to see what happens. She is playing in herfirst Grand Slam since coming back from knee surgery.

And she is 2-8 against Serena Williams. The last time she beat her was in the 2000 U.S. Open quarterfinals.

"After [the knee surgery], I could never have said I'd get this far," Davenport said. "I mean, it was just impossible in my mind. I was just hoping to be able to play here. I think, to get to this point is really one of my better achievements, just to be able to come back from everything this year and get to the semis of a Slam, still be in it, be a contender."

That said, Davenport added meeting Serena Williams is a huge challenge. She has said throughout the tournament the Williams sisters are better than everyone else and it is up to everyone on the women's tour to work to reach their level.

"Serena and I have had a lot of tough matches here at the Open," she said. "One year it was 6-4 in a third set. The next year I beat her. Last year was 7-5 in the third. Really tough matches. I have fond memories of all of them."

Serena Williams remembers those past matches too. The loss, she said, "haunts me." She can't wait to play Davenport.

"Lindsay and I are two top players," Serena said. "We play the same style of game. We both hit the ball hard. I can't wait. Win, lose or draw, I'm going to have fun."

Win, lose or draw? A Williams sister in doubt?

Serena Williams smiled, a placid smile, much like her sister's.

"Honestly, at this tournament, I feel like I have nothing to lose," she said. "I don't know why I feel so free and floaty, just carefree. I'm going out there to have fun. I think I'll do well, she'll do well. Either way, it'll be another American in the final again."

By tonight, we'll know if it will be a Williams or two.

NOTE: Albrecht Stromeyer, 34, pleaded guilty in Queens criminal court to stalking Serena Williams. He is expected to be placed in the custody of the Immigration and Naturalization Service.

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