"WAY TO GO LADIES" "COME ON VENUS" "TWO MORE TIMES - BABYYYYYYYYY'
Four of world's top five through to semifinal Diamond Games
43 minutes ago
By RAF CASERT, Associated Press Writer
ANTWERP, Belgium - Diamonds bring out the best in the world's best tennis players.
With the chase for the diamond-encrusted trophy valued at US$870,000 heating up, four of the world's top-five players will go for a place in Sunday's final of the Diamond Games.
It will be No.2 Venus Williams (news - web sites) against No. 5 Daniela Hantuchova of Slovakia Saturday and an all-Belgian clash between Kim Clijsters, No. 3, and Justine Henin-Hardenne, No. 4. None dropped a set in Friday's quarterfinals.
Venus Williams has most at stake this weekend. She already won the inaugural edition of the US$585,000 event last year and is closing in on the ultimate target — the trophy goes for good to the first player to win the event three times in any five-year span.
"If I keep performing, the racket will be a great bonus," said Williams, who has already visited the gem district in this leading diamond center of the world.
She has most to fear from local star Kim Clijsters. Both have yet to lose a set this week and are on target to meet in the final.
"To win it three times is an absolute highlight, and Venus is working hard on it," said Clijsters, who doesn't even want to start dreaming about it since Saturday's semifinal will be her first in tournament.
"It is certainly one of the most beautiful trophies on the circuit," Clijsters said. A golden racket has diamonds all over the handle, alongside the frame and all over a tennis ball fixed in the middle.
Williams is certainly in the groove to take another step closer.
On Friday, she beat Slovenia's Tina Pisnik 6-1, 6-4, to set up a semifinal clash with Slovakia's Hantuchova, the fifth-ranked player who edged France's Nathalie Dechy in two tight sets, 7-6 (4), 7-6 (6).
Clijsters overwhelmed Switzerland's Patty Schnyder 7-5, 6-1. Justine Henin-Hardenne was just as impressive as she swept past Ai Sugiyama of Japan 6-2, 6-4.
The world's top player, Serena Williams (news - web sites), is the only top-five player to sidestep the tournament.
Venus Williams is currently 4-0 over Hantuchova in head-to-heads and has stressed all week she fears no one in this tournament.
If Williams makes Sunday's final, she will play more than just a Belgian. The 14,000 places at the Sports Palace have already been sold out.
Clijsters knows what that means.
Trailing 5-3 against Schnyder in the first set she needed a boost lift and got one. "It is the first time in my life that the crowd lifted me like this," she said. She won 10 on the next 11 games for a straight set win.