S. Williams bad news for Capriati, 6-1, 6-1

Top seed at top of game

Mauresmo also in semis

July 01, 2004|By Diane Pucin | Diane Pucin,LOS ANGELES TIMES

WIMBLEDON, England - This was supposed to be a fabulous grudge match, two ferocious-hitting competitors who would wield their ground strokes like bludgeons and grunt and sweat and swear until one or the other hit a mighty winner.

Instead, Serena Williams dismissed Jennifer Capriati from Wimbledon's Centre Court yesterday as if she were the most minor of nuisances.

As a woman who uses her name spelled backward - Aneres - as the moniker of her new design firm, Williams likely spent more time braiding her hair, choosing her jewelry and applying her sparkly makeup than she did in finishing off Capriati, 6-1, 6-1, in a 46-minute Wimbledon quarterfinal.

Her victory earned the top-seeded Williams a place in tomorrow's women's semifinals against No. 4 seed Amelie Mauresmo of France. Mauresmo, 24, made her second Wimbledon semifinal with a 6-0, 5-7, 6-1 win over Argentina's Paola Suarez.

The other semifinal will pit Lindsay Davenport, 28, of California against 17-year-old Russian phenom Maria Sharapova. Davenport beat Karolina Sprem, 6-2, 6-2, Tuesday, and Sharapova got past Ai Sugiyama, 5-7, 7-5, 6-1.

Though they are far apart in age and native lands, Davenport and Sharapova share a basis in fundamental tennis taught by Robert Lansdorp, the Southern California coach who also gave Tracy Austin and Pete Sampras their starts.

"I've always admired Maria's game," Davenport said. "And I don't think Robert ever gets enough credit for what he starts."

With a strike by the Underground train engineers in London, traffic was congested and the 13,000 Centre Court seats were one-third empty at the start of the Williams-Capriati match.

They didn't miss much.

Williams imperiously moved Capriati from side to side, leaving Capriati flailing. The loudest sound of the match was Capriati's feet pounding toward unreachable Williams forehands. At one point, Capriati looked up at the heavy sky for something. Inspiration? A downpour? Invisibility?

More had been expected of her. While she trailed Williams, 9-6, in their career meetings entering the match, Capriati, 28, had won the past two, including an intense quarterfinal in the French Open last month.

But this time, Capriati, winner of three Grand Slams but never Wimbledon, seemed put off by the anticipation of another big match against the two-time defending champion.

"Everyone's talking about it so much," Capriati said, "and it's very hard to just go out there and just completely focus on tennis. I can't walk around with earplugs in my ears, you know. Maybe if you wouldn't talk about it so much, it would have been a better match."

Williams, however, relished the challenge. Her loss to Capriati in Paris inspired her.

"It geared me up to know I'm going to have to come out strong, especially in the first set, just to come out fighting for the first few points," Williams said.

She fought hard on almost every point, winning 58 to 30 for Capriati. "I don't think I had much of a chance to get into the match," Capriati said. "I was feeling so much pressure from her coming off the baseline and the serve. Her game plan was to tee off on everything, and she was on. She didn't let me in it at all."

Williams beat Mauresmo, 6-2, 6-1, here two years ago in a semifinal and leads their career series, 6-1. "It's pretty tough to play against Serena," Mauresmo said, "because one or two shots and it's done, especially on this surface. You have to be very focused and ready from the first shot to handle her game."

Davenport is in her third semifinal here, a tournament she won in 1999. It will be the 13th-seeded Sharapova's first Grand Slam semifinal.

The Los Angeles Times is a Tribune Publishing newspaper.

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