By Paul Levine
SportsTicker Contributing Writer
|Venus Williams celebrates following her 7-5, 6-1 victory over Francesca Schiavone during the quarterfinals of the JP Morgan Chase Open© Jeff Gross/Getty Images|
CARSON, California (Ticker) - Venus Williams and Lindsay Davenport took different paths, but the two American stars will battle for the second time in less than a week.
Second-seeded Williams fought off feisty upset-minded Francesca Schiavone of Italy, 7-5, 6-1, after Davenport demolished No. 7 Nadia Petrova of Russia, 6-1, 6-1, on Friday to reach the semifinals at the $585,000 JP Morgan Chase Open at the Home Depot Center.
Williams utilized a service break in the final game to take the hard-fought opener, and cruised in the next set to close out the 75-minute victory over the No. 11 seed.
"I don't think I played so much better in the second set, I guess I made less errors," Williams said. "She benefited from my errors. Plus she plays well. I was playing a good player today."
Davenport, meanwhile, banged out 23 winners and slammed nine aces in the quick 48-minute dismissal of the Russian Petrova to move to 5-0 in their head-to-head series.
"I cannot be anything but happy with where I'm at," Davenport said. "I'm playing really well. Anytime you can beat a top-10 player that easily, it's a great win."
In the featured night match in which Serena Williams BobbleHead dolls were given away to the first 5,000 fans, the top seed bounced back with two late service breaks to outslug No. 8 Vera Zvonareva of Russia for a 4-6, 6-3, 6-3 victory in 1 hour, 53 minutes. Her thrilling victory was witnessed before a wildly supportive crowd of 7,749 -- the largest to ever attend a women's outdoor tennis event in Los Angeles.
"I was so excited that it was the largest crowd, and of course I was a part of that match," said Williams, who spent her early years in the area. "I wanted to try to win. Someone in the crowd screamed, 'We paid to see you win. I said, 'OK, I didn't know that came with the ticket.'"
Williams was happy to get through the toughest match she's faced this week.
"This makes me feel good," she said. "I know I have to play another tough Russian tomorrow, so I'm excited."
Waiting in the wings is Elena Dementieva in Saturday night's semifinal. The fourth seed shook off a mild foot injury midway through her match and reeled off 11 of the final 13 games for a 5-7, 6-2, 6-2 victory over fellow Russian Svetlana Kuznetsova.
Serena Williams crushed the nervous Dementieva, 6-1, 6-1, to win the NASDAQ title in March, her first tournament and only title of 2004, after being sidelined for six months following right knee surgery.
"I'm excited," Williams said. "I think she's going to play a lot tougher, too. It's not the final, it's not a big huge tournament, so maybe she won't be as nervous. But whatever happens, happens at this point. I'm just trying to focus to get my technique for the U.S. Open."
Davenport will be seeking her eighth final appearance in nine outings in an event she has won three times. However, the local 28-year-old Southern California native knows she has her hands full with Venus Williams, whom she outlasted in a grueling 7-6 (7-4), 5-7, 7-6 (7-4) title victory at the Bank of the West last Sunday.
"I know she'll be eager for revenge, I'll have to play really well," said Davenport, who trails 12-11 in the hard-hitting rivalry of former world No. 1 players. "I've always said if Venus has all of her shots working she'll be tough to beat. The key is to try to break down her forehand. Hopefully it's not as long as three hours."
Though Venus Williams is looking for a reversal of fortune, she is looking to cut down on the whopping 73 unforced errors committed at Stanford.
"I wouldn't say avenge is the word," she said. "My whole goal is definitely to make less errors. I had a ton of errors, and that didn't help my cause at all.
"Anytime someone plays you, they have to hope that you play badly to win. I'm not hoping she plays bad, I not hoping she plays good. I'm pretty much focused on what I'm doing."
With the quick blowout, Davenport said she intended to spend the rest of the day with her mother, Ann, who returned home after having right hip surgery earlier in the week. Though Dementieva could not be home to celebrate the birthday of her mother, Vera, she did give her a gift.
"Today is my Mom's birthday, so I was doing everything possible to win the match for her because she's not here with me today," said Dementieva, the recent French Open runner-up. "I didn't promise anything. I wanted to call her afterwards and say it's my present for her."
Dementieva dropped the opener and hurt the upper part of her right foot in the third game to fall behind 2-1 in the second.
"I didn't twist it or take a wrong step, so I have no idea how it happened," Dementieva said. "I felt like someone stepped on my foot and felt pain."
After having it taped by the WTA Tour trainer, she picked up her game with searing groundstrokes, and Kuznetsova began to make many of her 50 unforced errors.