Davenport advances to quarters

Tuesday, September 7, 2004

NEW YORK -- Venus Williams was grunting loudly, Lindsay Davenport was muttering to herself, and the fans were jumping out of their seats after each point.

The matchup was fit for a Grand Slam final, not the fourth round. So, too, was the riveting last game.

Davenport and Williams, seven major titles and 49 weeks at No. 1 between them, swapped powerful strokes and anxious moments in a final act encompassing 24 points over 13 minutes Monday at the U.S. Open. Nine deuces. Five break points for two-time Open champion Williams. Five match points for 1998 Open champ Davenport. In the end, Davenport was slightly steadier and stronger, pulling out that game and a 7-5, 6-4 victory to reach the quarterfinals.

It was a fittingly tight way to end the pair's 25th meeting, never so early in a tournament; they came in 12-12.

"A tough one to get through," said Davenport, who faces 62nd-ranked Shinobu Asagoe for a semifinal berth. "I wanted to win so badly, and I played such a great, calm match until that point, and then let a few errors creep in."

Not as many as Williams, who since playing her first Slam in 1997 never had gone an entire season without reaching at least one major semifinal. She hurt herself with 42 miscues, mostly off forehands and more than double Davenport's count.

"It was me. I made too many errors," Williams said. "The thing that hurt me the most was my inconsistency."

That's been a problem for a while, leading to her slide to No. 12 in the rankings. Davenport, meanwhile, has won 21 straight matches since talking about retirement at Wimbledon.

Another big-name showdown is looming in the men's quarterfinals: Andre Agassi vs. Roger Federer. Agassi advanced Monday with a 6-3, 6-2, 6-2 victory over pal and occasional practice partner Sargis Sargsian, who was on court for nearly 10 hours in his previous two outings. This one took 90 minutes.

Federer's opponent, No. 16 Andrei Pavel, pulled out with a bad back.

"There's nothing more you ask for than to play a big event against the best player in this environment," Agassi said. "It's time to bring the best tennis."

Mary Pierce, who beat Maria Sharapova in singles, lost to No. 9 Svetlana Kuznetsova 7-6 (5), 6-2. Kuznetsova plays No. 1 Justine Henin-Hardenne or No. 14 Nadia Petrova next.

Asagoe upset No. 29 Eleni Daniilidou 7-6 (4), 4-6, 6-3, making her the lowest-ranked Open quarterfinalist since Williams was 66th in her 1997 debut.

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