Davenport, Henin-Hardenne final

August 25, 2006 08:30 PM
Lindsay Davenport 225 w

NEW HAVEN, Conn. (AP) -- Lindsay Davenport overcame a rain delay, a sore shoulder and the hard-hitting Samantha Stosur to advance to the final of the Pilot Pen tournament with a 7-6 (3), 7-6 (7) victory in two hours Friday.

She will play Justine Henin-Hardenne, who advanced with a 6-3, 6-3 win over Svetlana Kuznetsova. Because of a knee injury, Henin-Hardenne had not played a tournament for six weeks after losing in the Wimbledon final to Amelie Mauresmo. She and Davenport, both former U.S. Open winners, are hoping to play their way back into shape in time for that Grand Slam next week.

Davenport, the defending champion, is playing in only her fifth tournament of 2006 because of a back injury. Seeded seventh here, Davenport has posted four straight-set wins, including one against No. 1-ranked Mauresmo.

"First of all, I'm ecstatic to be in the finals," Davenport said. "I'm feeling fatigued. I played more tennis this week than I have in six months."

Stosur was her toughest test of the week. They traded powerful groundstrokes on nearly every point and Davenport had little room for error in her service game. The 22-year-old Australian repeatedly pounded Davenport's second serve and her backhand returns were especially effective.

Davenport called for a trainer between sets to have her shoulder worked on, then dominated the first game of the second set with two aces and two service winners. After Stosur won the second game, they had to wait out a 15-minute rain delay.

It was their second meeting this month. Stosur defeated Davenport in Los Angeles for her first career win over a top-10 player.

Lacking a title on the singles tour, Stosur has developed into the top doubles player in the world along with partner Lisa Raymond. They won the Pilot Pen doubles title last year and are the reigning French Open and U.S. Open champions. But she was all alone Friday against Davenport, who moved her from sideline to sideline and consistently found gaps with her groundstrokes.

"You never want to lose to a player twice. But I mean, I knew in my head that I'm playing differently this week than I was two weeks ago," Davenport said. "She's a very tricky opponent, comes up with a lot of good shots."

Stosur fought off two match points and held serve in the ninth game of the second set, and was just as gritty in the tiebreaker. Davenport jumped out to a 4-1 lead, but Stosur battled to 7-7 before double-faulting the next point and sending a forehand volley long that closed out the match.

"I thought I played very well. I gave it everything I had," Stosur said.

Justine Henin-Hardenne 225 w

Henin-Hardenne had an easier time against the seventh-seeded Kuznetsova. She broke her serve twice in the first set, then charged out to a 4-1 lead in the second.

Their final game was a back-and-forth battle of Kuznetsova's rangy ground game and Henin-Hardenne's finesse. The second-seeded Belgian followed her crisp backhands up with crosscourt winners and froze Kuznetsova on several occasions with soft drop shots.

"I'm not the kind of person who's going to hit the ball every time the same, with the same rhythm," Henin-Hardenne said. "I just try to find the way I have to play against all these players that are hitting the ball pretty hard."

At deuce in the last game, Henin-Hardenne raced across the court and hit a soft backhand lob over Kuznetsova. She pumped her fists to cap the long, athletic rally. She closed out the match on the next serve when Kuznetsova hit her return into the net. Kuznetsova has lost 12 of the last 13 meetings to Henin-Hardenne, including the final of this year's French Open.

"It's the one player on tour I have beaten only once. I still have chances, but I don't win often," Kuznetsova said. "Today, I wanted to beat her so badly. She mixes it up. She never plays the same."

In the men's semifinals, second-seeded Nikolay Davydenko beat Robin Soderling, 7-6 (6), 6-2. He'll meet Agustin Calleri for the championship on Saturday. Calleri, the No. 10 seed, advanced after Xavier Malisse retired with a sore right elbow at the start of the second set.

Because of the rain delay, the Calleri-Malisse match was moved to an auxiliary court near where a fashion show was going on, complete with loud music. Both players said they were bothered by the noise.

"It's I guess very unprofessional," Malisse said. "You're playing semis out there. The fashion show seemed to be more important than the semis."

Tournament officials said they apologized to the players.