Tuesday, July 1, 2003

Capriati, Davenport aim for the Williamses


But Agassi loss leaves Roddick last U.S. hope

Enquirer news services

WIMBLEDON, England - Two of the women's quarterfinals at Wimbledon today may seem more like championship matches.

That's because Serena Williams vs. Jennifer Capriati and Venus Williams vs. Lindsay Davenport will feature four U.S. players who together have won 14 of the past 16 Grand Slam singles titles.

There will be no such star power in the men's quarterfinals, which will be played Wednesday.

That's because world No. 1 and second-seeded Andre Agassi was upset Monday by Mark Philippoussis 6-3, 2-6, 6-7 (4), 6-3, 6-4 in the fourth round.

That leaves fifth-seeded Andy Roddick and Britain's Tim Henman as the best men's storylines remaining.

As for the women's storylines, it can be sized up this way - can Serena and Venus Williams be stopped?

Capriati and Davenport, both 27, will try to end the recent dominance of the Williams sisters at the All England Club in London. Serena captured the Wimbledon title last year by beating Venus, who had won the two previous years.

Davenport, the 1999 champion, is the last female other than Serena or Venus Williams to win at Wimbledon. After winning eight of her first nine matches against Venus Williams, Davenport has lost 10 of the past 12.

"I had the upper hand, but Venus was still maturing, figuring out her game," said Davenport, whose last Grand Slam title came at the 2000 Australian Open. "She does a lot of things very well on grass and it's hard to combat her serve and big return."

The winner of that match will face French Open champion Justine Henin-Hardenne or Russia's Svetlana Kuznetsova in the semifinals. French Open runner-up Kim Clijsters faces Italy's Silvia Farina Elia in today's other quarterfinal.

Davenport, a former world No. 1 who fell to No. 12 at the end of last year, is climbing the rankings again after missing most of the 2002 season with a knee injury. She's back up to No. 5 this year after winning a tournament in Tokyo and reaching finals in Indian Wells, California, and Madrid.

"She's playing as well as ever," Venus Williams said after beating Russia's Vera Zvonareva. "Maybe she hasn't won as much as she'd like but she's playing very well."

Like Venus Williams and Davenport, Serena Williams and Capriati have yet to lose a set so far at Wimbledon. Serena leads Capriati 8-4 in career meetings after winning their past seven matches.

"She doesn't give as many free points away as she used to," said Capriati, who's seeking her first Grand Slam title since the 2002 Australian Open. "I haven't been at my best the last few times, but I'll definitely be fired up."

Henin-Hardenne has never played Kuznetsova, an 18-year-old who's making her first appearance in the Wimbledon senior tournament.

Clijsters, 20, is trying to reach the last four at Wimbledon for the first time.

The unseeded Philippoussis' upset of Agassi was triggered by his huge serve - hit blasted a record-tying 46 aces.

"So little can decide each set that it's pretty frustrating at times," said Agassi, the 1992 champion. "I felt like I made him earn it. I made him play the big shot at the crucial time, and he came up with it."

For Philippoussis, who had lost six straight matches against Agassi, this represents a return to the big time. Once ranked No. 8 and the 1998 U.S. Open runner-up, he fell out of the top 100 in 2001 after a series of left knee injuries. He's always had that booming serve, though.

"The great thing about the serve is you've got the ball in your hands. You can take your time, no one can rush you. You're in control," the 48th-ranked Australian said. "Even on the second serves, I went for them. Against a guy like Andre, you have to."

He earned his fourth trip to Wimbledon's quarterfinals, having made it that far in 1998-00. He lost each time, once to Agassi, twice to Pete Sampras.

Philippoussis will play a less-distinguished foe this time: Alexander Popp, who's ranked 198th and beat Olivier Rochus 5-7, 6-3, 6-4, 6-2.

Other quarterfinals: Roddick vs. Jonas Bjorkman, No. 4 Roger Federer vs. No. 8 Sjeng Schalken, and Henman vs. Juan Carlos Ferrero or Sebastien Grosjean - their match was stopped because of darkness with Grosjean ahead 2-1 in sets.

Wimbledon at a glance

Today's women's quarterfinals

• Lindsay Davenport (5) vs. Venus Williams (4)

• Serena Williams (1) vs. Jennifer Capriati (8)

• Silvia Farina Elia (27) vs. Kim Clijsters (2)

• Justine Henin-Hardenne (3) vs. Svetlana Kuznetsova (33)

Television

• 8 a.m., ESPN2; 10 a.m., 5,22; 1 p.m., ESPN

Men's quarterfinals

• Will be played Wednesday with no past winners for the first time since 1973.




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