Wednesday, January 22, 2003

Serena, Clijsters to meet in semifinals

The Associated Press

MELBOURNE, Australia - Serena Williams moved two wins away from the "Serena Slam." Standing in her way is Kim Clijsters, the last player to beat Williams or her sister Venus.

Serena Williams reached the Australian Open semifinals with a 6-2, 6-2 victory Wednesday over Meghann Shaughnessy, whose drop shot led to the twisted ankle that kept Williams out of last year's tournament.

"I'm definitely thrilled to get to the semifinal. It's my first in Australia," said Serena, who hit eight aces, served at up to 121 mph and lost only 10 points on her serve.

Williams went on to beat her sister for the title in the year's three remaining Grand Slam tournaments.

Clijsters, who beat both Williams sisters to win the WTA Tour Championship last November, advanced with a 6-2, 6-4 victory over Anastasia Myskina. The 19-year-old Belgian now has lost only 16 games in 10 sets.

Williams had trouble only in finishing her 65-minute match. Shaughnessy saved one match point in the six-deuce seventh game of the second set, and two more in the last game before Williams produced a final service winner.

Williams said Clijsters "is playing great here. She's also a fan favorite and such a nice person, so it should be good."

Later, she added: "The gap is definitely getting narrower. I'm just trying to keep up with everyone else. ... I'm tired of answering these questions 'What does it take to beat the Williams sisters?"'

On the other side of the draw, Venus Williams plays her semifinal Thursday against Belgian Justine Henin-Hardenne.

"I'm glad to get to the finals any time," Serena said. "I also want the best for my sister, so if she gets there I'll be glad for her also."

Shaughnessy, who came in with an 11-match winning streak, said facing Williams' power "is an adjustment."

"I've been here playing in Australia for three weeks, playing great tennis. In the beginning, it was a shock how fast the ball was coming," she said. "I'm disappointed but it's a good learning experience and I'll do a lot better next time."

Myskina is predicting that Clijsters will win this tournament.

"I think right now Kim is the best player in the world," she said. "I think she feels like she's playing at home here."

Clijsters said she has gained confidence from her string of 24 victories in her last 25 matches.

But, she said, in the big matches, the Williams sisters "can play even better when they have to. ... You have to grab every chance you get to break them."

Clijsters, the 2001 French Open runner-up, kept Myskina on the run with a heavy forehand, which accounted for 20 of her 27 winners.

She also won points with outstanding hustle, especially against the 21-year-old Russian's drop shots.

Clijsters lost her serve twice in the second set, but allowed Myskina to hold serve only three times in the match.

Myskina had won two of their previous four matches, but said Clijsters cut down sharply on errors this time.

"She's better than Serena and Venus right now. She's got more confidence than Serena and Venus," Myskina said.

Clijsters spends time in Australia with her boyfriend, men's No. 1 Lleyton Hewitt, and said that away from home, "to have a full box supporting you, it's always great."

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