Venus Williams sails into semifinals at Wimbledon

Tuesday, July 2, 2002

AP Sports Writer

WIMBLEDON, England (AP) -- Venus Williams swept to another easy straight-set victory Tuesday as she moved into the semifinals and closer to her third straight Wimbledon title.

The top-seeded Williams, who has dropped one set in five matches, crushed 48th-ranked Elena Likhovtseva 6-2, 6-0 in 44 minutes in the day's opening match on Centre Court.

It was Williams' eighth consecutive win over the Russian, all in straight sets.

Likhovtseva, the only unseeded player to reach the women's quarters, was helpless against the American's relentless power game and won only seven points in the second set.

"I'm just trying to play more solid every round, garner each point for myself," Williams said. "When it happens like it did today, it's very nice I think. I don't think she gave me a lot of errors. I had to produce most of the shots and put a lot of pressure on her."

Williams has spent only 4 1/2 hours on court in her run to the semifinals and remains a strong favorite to become the first woman to win three straight titles since Steffi Graf in 1991-93.

"Now I expect for myself to be almost perfect," she said. "When I first started, first getting to the quarterfinals, it was all new. But now I expect to be there."

No. 3 Jennifer Capriati advanced to the final four by completing a 6-1, 3-6, 6-1 win over 38th-ranked Eleni Daniilidou of Greece. With the match suspended at one set apiece Monday, Capriati swept the final set in less than half an hour, finishing with an ace on match point.

The match resumed just before 6 p.m. after a series of rain delays throughout the afternoon. The match was moved from Court 1 to Court 18 to ensure it could be completed.

Capriati will face ninth-seeded Amelie Mauresmo of France in the semifinals.

Williams will next face the winner of the quarterfinal between No. 4 Monica Seles and No. 6 Justine Henin, whom she beat in last year's final.

Williams' sister, Serena, is scheduled to play Daniela Hantuchova in a quarterfinal Wednesday. The Williams sisters are on course to meet in their third Grand Slam final in 10 months.

In the first match on Court 1, Belgium's Xavier Malisse advanced to the quarterfinals by beating Britain's Greg Rusedski 6-4 in the final set of a match that had been suspended Monday evening at two sets apiece.

Malisse broke Rusedski for a 4-3 lead and served out the match three games later. After saving two break points, one with an ace, he converted on his second match point to close it out at 3-6, 6-3, 3-6, 6-3, 6-4.

Malisse jumped high in the air with his right arm extended, then dropped to his knees and bent his head down on the grass.

Malisse is the first Belgian man to advance this far at Wimbledon in the Open era -- and only the second Belgian to reach any Grand Slam men's quarterfinal. Filip de Wulf reached the semis at the French Open in 1997 and the quarters in 1998.

Play started just over an hour late on Centre Court and Court 1 after a rain delay, the second straight day of wet weather.

Richard Krajicek, the 1996 winner and only former men's champion left in the draw, faced Mark Philippoussis in a fourth-round match put off a day.

Rusedski's defeat left Tim Henman as the last British player in the draw. No Briton has won the men's title since 1936.

The fourth-seeded Henman is having a much tougher time than expected so far.

Henman overcame an upset stomach, a 1-hour, 50-minute rain suspension and breaks of serve in the fourth and fifth sets Monday to advance to the quarterfinals with a five-set victory over 45th-ranked Michel Kratochvil.

Henman needed help from smelling salts, his opponent's 17 double faults and a boisterous crowd to scrape through 7-6 (5), 6-7 (2), 4-6, 6-3, 6-2.

When Kratochvil missed a forehand return to end the 4:13 match, Henman raised his arms and gazed skyward -- more in relief than celebration.

"I don't know who kept me alive but the crowd can take a lot of credit," Henman said. "Because at two sets to one and 2-1 down in the fourth, I was out of there. I can't quite figure out how I won. I'm just so happy to still be alive."

Henman, who reached the semifinals in three of the past four years, came in as the pre-tournament betting favorite. He carries immense national expectations in his quest to give Britain its first men's winner since Fred Perry 66 years ago.

Henman had a soft draw, with two qualifiers in the first two rounds. But he looked vulnerable at times in his second-round four-set win over Scott Draper and benefited from a dubious overrule in the third round against Wayne Ferreira, also in four sets.

On Wednesday, Henman will face 90th-ranked Brazilian Andre Sa -- who, along with Argentina's David Nalbandian and Ecuador's Nicolas Lapentti, have put three South Americans in the quarters for the first time in the Open era.

After that, Henman most likely would face top-seeded Lleyton Hewitt, the U.S. Open champion who hasn't dropped a set so far and is the strong title favorite now.

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