Sunday, November 10, 2002

Serena Williams, Capriati advance to WTA semis

By Beth Harris
The Associated Press

LOS ANGELES - Once Serena Williams got warmed up, Jelena Dokic had no chance against the world's No. 1 player.

Williams overcame a 4-1 deficit in the first set and beat the eighth-seeded Dokic 7-6 (1), 6-0 in the quarterfinals of the season-ending WTA Championships on Saturday night.

Williams will play No. 3 Jennifer Capriati in Sunday's semifinals at Staples Center. No. 2 Venus Williams goes against fifth-seeded Kim Clijsters for the other spot in Monday night's final of the $3 million tournament.

"I feel great. I'm just getting started," said Serena Williams, who donned her sleek black catsuit for the first time since the U.S. Open. She's now 5-0 in the daring outfit.

Williams won her 17th consecutive match and is two victories away from defending the title she won a year ago in Germany.

Dokic said she was hobbled by a sprained right ankle that she injured earlier in the week and nearly didn't play.

"I was good enough to play a set or two, but against Serena you have to be 100 percent," she said. "I had trouble moving."

Dokic broke Williams once in taking a 4-1 lead before Williams won three straight games to tie the set at 4-all. They stayed on serve to force the tiebreaker and Dokic double-faulted to lose the set.

"I couldn't have asked for a better first set. I could have won it," Dokic said.

Williams committed many of her 17 unforced errors early in the first set.

"I wasn't attacking my shots and I let her dictate play," she said. "I let other people get ahead and I quickly come and pass them."

The announced attendance of 6,559 for the evening matches was the highest of the week, although the 20,000-seat arena was far from full. The afternoon total appeared about half of the 4,788 that was announced.

Capriati, feeling fresh and motivated while most of her opponents are worn out, defeated Magdalena Maleeva 6-2, 4-6, 6-1.

Most of the 16 players in the final tournament of the year have complained about fatigue, citing the abundance of tournaments (67) and worldwide travel during a season they complain is too long.

"I'm going to say the same thing as everyone else. I'm really tired and my shoulder is tired," Maleeva said. "I don't have any speed in my arm. I just couldn't get pumped up."

Asked how she could be tired when $2.3 million in singles prize money is at stake, the Bulgarian snapped, "Oh, come on, you can be, believe me."

Maleeva, who earned $99,000 in defeat, concluded her best season in six years. She was coming off her title win in Moscow, where she beat Venus Williams, Amelie Mauresmo and Lindsay Davenport, and a runner-up finish in Luxembourg.

"That's why I'm tired," she said. "I wouldn't be tired if I didn't have those results."

Capriati, however, feels just the opposite.

"I'm motivated to be here. I've got nothing to lose," she said. "I feel fresh because I didn't play that well in Europe. I was home for a week and recharged my batteries."

In beating Maleeva, whom she hasn't lost to in six years, Capriati won only her third match since the U.S. Open. She suffered three losses, including two against Alexandra Stevenson, during indoor tournaments in Europe last month.

Capriati won eight of first nine points against Maleeva, then lost 10 of the next 12, and won 10 of the following 12 to wrap up the first set 6-2.

There were five consecutive service breaks in the second set, which Capriati won despite being broken in the final game.

She broke Maleeva to open the third - the match's sixth straight break - and then held for a 2-0 lead. Capriati broke Maleeva four times in the final set, winning on her first match point when the Bulgarian's forehand landed beyond the baseline.

Capriati's only tournament win this year was the Australian Open in January. In between Melbourne and Los Angeles came mostly forgettable results in 14 events.

"It would be great," she said about the possibility of winning the season-ending championship. "It would be like winning the first one and winning the last one. Who cares what happens in between, you know?"

Capriati plans to have eye surgery next week for a condition that is aggravated by being out in the sun. It'll be her second surgery since having her vision corrected a few years ago.

"The doctor actually explained it the best way by saying it's like a windshield wiper, the glass is not clear, it's never going to be clear," she said. "I identified it a few years ago. I guess they're getting worse. That's why I'm having it done."

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