Top four women seeds reach semifinal round

Wednesday, July 5, 2006

WIMBLEDON, England -- About the only thing that made Maria Sharapova flinch during her Wimbledon quarterfinal was the streaker prancing around on court.

Sharapova lost three of the next four games -- coincidence, perhaps? -- before finishing off a 6-1, 6-4 victory over No. 7 Elena Dementieva on Tuesday to reach the semifinals at the All England Club for the third straight year.

"I heard the crowd go a little wild, and I looked back and saw the man jumping up and down. It took the crowd a point or two to settle down, but I'm pretty good at keeping my focus. I don't let things like that bother me too much," the 2004 Wimbledon champion said.

The fourth-seeded Sharapova faces No. 1 Amelie Mauresmo on Thursday, when No. 2 Kim Clijsters meets No. 3 Justine Henin-Hardenne in an all-Belgian semifinal.

It's only the fifth time in the past 25 years that women seeded 1-4 all reached the Wimbledon semifinals, and this is certainly an impressive quartet: All have won at least one Grand Slam championship, including the past three (Clijsters at the U.S. Open, Mauresmo at the Australian and Henin-Hardenne at the French).

Sharapova is the only semifinalist who already owns a Wimbledon title

Mauresmo reached her fourth Wimbledon semifinal by eliminating 2004 French Open champion Anastasia Myskina 6-1, 3-6, 6-3. The Frenchwoman never has reached the final at the All England Club.

"I don't think I have anything to prove to myself, first of all, or to anybody," said Mauresmo, who went to the net behind nearly half her serves, winning the point 72 percent of the time. "I just want more."

Henin-Hardenne has been to the championship match here, losing to Venus Williams in 2001. She's since won each of the other major tournaments at least once, for a total of five titles, and her 6-4, 6-4 victory over French qualifier Severine Bremond put Henin-Hardenne closer to completing a career Grand Slam.

The Belgian hasn't dropped a set so far; she hadn't allowed an opponent to win more than three games in a set until the 179th-ranked Bremond did it.

"She's wonderful on grass," said Bremond, the first qualifier in the Wimbledon quarterfinals since 1999.

Clijsters was a 6-4, 7-5 winner against No. 27 Li Na, the first Chinese player to reach the quarterfinals at any of the four majors.

Now she faces a far more familiar foe: Clijsters and Henin-Hardenne have played 19 times on tour (Clijsters leads 10-9), and six times at Slams (Henin-Hardenne leads 4-2) -- but never at Wimbledon.

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