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tennisIlove09
Apr 13th, 2003, 07:13 AM
Unbeaten Serena Defeats Davenport; Will Face Henin-Hardenne In Final

By Brad Falkner
04/12/2003

Serena Williams had turned in such a profound head-turning performance for most of the day, Lindsay Davenport could have been excused for donning a neck brace during a changeover.


Instead of losing her mind, Davenport kept her head. After being blown off the court for the first set and half of the Family Circle Cup semifinal, Davenport had evened the second set at 5-5 only to see Williams break and serve for the match at 6-5.

The third-seeded Davenport earned two break points and was on the verge of forcing a tiebreak. While Davenport didn't give up, Williams refused to give in. Summoning her strongest serving of the match, Williams slammed two aces down the middle to save the break points, then hit her ninth ace of the match to reach match point.

The top-ranked Williams closed out the 6-1, 7-5 victory in style unleashing a leaping forehand winner crosscourt that singed the sideline.

"Somehow, hopefully I'm able to come up with a big serve and say: 'OK Serena, time to really focus and hit a big serve or second serve'," Williams said. "I was hitting unbelievable in the first set today. I was treeing. In practice, I was hitting 50, 60 balls in a row (without missing a shot) and I felt good in the first set."

The undefeated Williams raised her record to 21-0 and will meet second-seeded Justine Henin-Hardenne, who beat American Ashley Harkleroad in straight sets, in Sunday's final.

The first set was vintage Serena. It's not that Davenport did anything wrong, Williams just did everything right. At one point, she seemed to hit winners at will: off returns, from the baseline and on her serve. Davenport hit consistently deep shots, but Williams responded with pace and angle that left Davenport shaking her head in amazement. It took Williams a mere 23 minutes to race through the first set.

"I don’t know how many errors I made or not, but that’s how I would like to play tennis," Williams said of her dominant first-set performance.

The five-time Grand Slam champion started the second set off exactly as she did in the first set, painting the lines with winners off of both wings and blasting huge serves past her sometimes shell-shocked opponent.

Typically, Davenport dictates rallies in most of her matches, but she was utterly defenseless during the first set and a half today.

"I mean there wasn’t a whole lot I could do," Davenport said. "It seemed like she was going for broke and most of the time they were winners and a few time I got errors. I really felt like I was never really in control of too many points, if any."

To her credit, Davenport didn't give up. Trailing 1-3 and looking doomed to defeat she fought back and brought the capacity crowd to its feet in breaking Williams serve for the first time in the match to reach 2-3 before holding to even the set at 3-3.

"Being able to hold my serve and just to get on the board and feel some more confidence was a big step," Davenport said. "And obviously to get a break at 2-3 got me right back in the set fairly quickly, and finally that game I felt like I finally hit some good shots. I was a little bit more aggressive and penetrating than I had been in the first set and a half, so after it got back to 3-3, I really felt like it was a set that I could win, and you know, I was very, very close to doing that."

With the set even at 5-all, Williams hit some strong returns to break serve the delivered three aces in the final set to seal the victory.

"She totally raised the level of her game, completely, up four or five notches and caught up with me," Williams said. "Then we really were battling out for the end."

Though Williams has won four of her five matches with the second-seeded Henin-Hardenne, their clay-court clashes last year produced some mesmerizing tennis as Williams fell to Henin-Hardenne in a third-set tiebreaker at the German Open before beating the Belgian to win the Italian Open.

"I have to play a tough opponent in the next round final and I'll have to keep my fingers crossed," Williams said. "I am definitely not taking anyone for granted. Justine is playing really good tennis and she always seems to do very well on the clay."