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post #1 of 27 (permalink) Old Jul 12th, 2004, 06:17 PM Thread Starter
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Bank of the West Classic 2004

Women's Look Forward: Stanford


And now the countdown begins for Kim Clijsters. When will she lose the #2 ranking?

Luckily for Clijsters, Amelie Mauresmo played Fed Cup in Italy this week. There was no way she was flying to Stanford! And so Clijsters will lose the #2 ranking another week. As in, two weeks from now.

For this week, therefore, the question is, Can anyone at Stanford stop Venus Williams? This will be, after all, the first hardcourt event for Venus since she started getting things together during the clay season. And if ever there was a tournament for her to win, this is it: There is one Top Ten player in the field (Lindsay Davenport), though she's seeded #2 behind Venus (based on Venus's special ranking). Though the special rankings didn't really matter this week; Venus, at #15, is the next-highest-ranked player in the draw, so the top two seeds would be the same whether Venus had been promoted or not. We do have three players ranked between #16 and #20: #3 seed Patty Schnyder, #4 Francesca Schiavone, and #5 Anna Smashnova-Pistolesi. #6 seed Amy Frazier and #7 Meghann Shaughnessy are the other Top 30 players (but Shaughnessy, who has been known to threaten Venus, is in Davenport's half of the draw). The remaining seed, #8 Maria Vento-Kabchi, isn't even Top 30. In terms of Gold Exempts, the presence of Venus and Davenport meets the WTA's commitment for top players -- but in terms of strength of the draw, this will surely be among the weakest Tier II events of the year (we'd guess it will be the weakest, but in this era of injuries, we could yet be surprised). The rest of the field isn't much better. Every Top 100 player who signed up got in, except for Marissa Irvin, #98 last week, who is the #1 qualifying seed. Even the qualifying field is small -- only 16 players, though the 16 include Ashley Harkleroad and Alexandra Stevenson, as well as veterans like Lilia Osterloh and youngsters like Jamea Jackson. The most noteworthy unseeded players include Eleni Daniilidou, Jelena Kostanic, and Elena Likhovtseva -- all of whom were Top 40 last week. It's interesting to observe that the only Russians in the field are the long-service veterans Likhovtseva and Alina Jidkova.

Noteworthy First Round Matches. With such a weak field, and the top four seeds having byes, there isn't much that's of great note. Probably the best is the contest between Maria Vento-Kabchi, the #8 seed, and Eleni Daniilidou, the top unseeded player. Though this is a bad surface for Daniilidou, who has been in crummy form anyway. Perhaps more likely to produce a decent match is the meeting between veteran Nicole Pratt and rising youngster Jelena Jankovic -- though Pratt will just have flown in from Fed Cup, so she will be jet lagged if she plays at all. That leaves, as a third choice, the match between Likhovtseva and Marion Bartoli; Bartoli, after problems this spring, seems to be recovering her form, and Likhovtseva is having a hard time finding hers.

The Rankings. We already talked about the big question of the next few weeks: The #2 ranking spot. Kim Clijsters currently has it, with 4421 points -- a 390 point lead over Amelie Mauresmo, with Anastasia Myskina 311 points behind that. We should note that the schedule has been shifted somewhat because of the Olympics. Stanford was played a week later last year, so none of the top players have anything to defend this week (it was Fed Cup week). Beyond that -- look out. Clijsters earned 264 points for winning Stanford last year, and 237 in reaching the San Diego final, and 298 for winning Los Angeles. Mauresmo didn't even play in that time last year, and Myskina played only Sopot, where she lost in the quarterfinal. Thus Clijsters is safe at #2 this week, but is certain to lose the #2 spot two weeks from now, probably to Mauresmo though a big result at Los Angeles or San Diego might just possibly give it to Myskina. And if Mauresmo plays Los Angeles, it could happen next week.

We won't see much other movement at the top, either. Once Stanford comes off, Justine Henin-Hardenne -- who did not play the event last year -- will actually increase her lead over her nearest rivals. For now. It seems effectively impossible for her to lose the #1 ranking before the Olympics (unless Mauresmo or Myskina wins everything in sight), but it is possible at the Olympics, and even more possible at the U. S. Open.

Nor can #5 Lindsay Davenport move up this week; she's too far behind Myskina, though she missed Stanford last year. But because she has nothing to defend either, she won't be losing ground.

With no other Top Ten players playing, there will not be any activity until we get to the #10 spot itself. Because Venus could, just possibly, earn that. She has to have everything break her way in terms of quality points (e.g. she has to beat Davenport in the final), but if it does, she could hit #10. No matter what happens, she should reach #12 if she wins (important, since her special ranking expires soon). She needs only to win her opening match -- against Angela Haynes or Lindsay Lee-Waters -- to move ahead of sister Serena and take the #14 spot.

Key Matches. Because the field is as it is, we're having to pick key matches for reasons mostly "psychological" -- based on what they mean for players' confidence.

Topping that list is probably the second round contest between Amy Frazier and the Likhovtseva/Bartoli winner, followed by Frazier's meeting with Patty Schnyder in the quarterfinal. Frazier is suddenly back in the Top 25, and she gave eventual champion Maria Sharapova a battle at Wimbledon. She loves hardcourts, especially on the West Coast. If she can reach the semifinal -- which is quite possible -- she would be getting close to the Top 20. If she can make the final -- and if ever there is a Tier II where that is possible, this is it -- she would be Top 20 next week. It's a big chance to cement her standing.

We'd also note the second round contest between Jelena Kostanic and #4 seed Schiavone. Kostanic has been progressing steadily lately; a nice confidence-building win on hardcourts (not her best surface) might well help her toward a steady spot in the Top 30.

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post #2 of 27 (permalink) Old Jul 12th, 2004, 07:06 PM Thread Starter
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Just 2 big names in field, but Bank of the West content


By Darren Sabedra

Mercury News


The Bank of the West Classic will have a familiar look at the top this week. After skipping the event last year, Venus Williams and Lindsay Davenport are back.

After that, however, the marquee is quite bare.

There is no Serena Williams. No Kim Clijsters, the defending champion. No Justine Henin-Hardenne, the world's top-ranked player. No Jennifer Capriati. And there is no Maria Sharapova, the Russian teenager who burst onto the scene after her victory over Serena Williams in the Wimbledon final nine days ago.

When the Bank of the West starts today at Stanford's Taube Family Tennis Stadium, it will have only two big names in the 28-player field. Blame it on injuries, illness, the Olympics and even the Women's Tennis Association rule book.

While the tour got a huge shot in the arm from Sharapova's newfound stardom, the year's other big story, the health of the tour's top players, has created a ripple effect throughout the sport. Clijsters might not play the rest of the summer because of wrist surgery. The Williams sisters have battled injuries. Henin-Hardenne missed Wimbledon because of a viral illness.

``It's been a very frustrating year,'' said Mary Joe Fernandez, a former top-10 player who will work as an ESPN analyst at the Bank of the West.

All of this has left Gus Sampras, the new tournament director and Pete's older brother, with a potential finale the Bay Area has seen many times over. Venus Williams and Davenport have played for the title three times since 1997, and only one time in that span (last year) has the final not featured one of them.

Still, Sampras is hardly complaining. He points out that Davenport, a two-time Bank of the West champion, might be making her final Bay Area appearance; she has hinted at retirement. And what tournament wouldn't want Venus Williams?

``When they aren't here, you realize what you've missed,'' Sampras said, referring to the players' absence last year. ``We're fortunate to have both of them coming.''

Fernandez agreed, adding: ``Just having Venus is enough to sell any tournament. To have one of the Williams sisters at your tournament is huge.''

Unfortunately for Bay Area tennis fans, they have seen only the older half of that duo. Serena Williams was to make her Bank of the West debut last year but withdrew on the eve of the tournament because of an injury. She did not enter this year.

``We're not going to give up,'' Sampras said. ``Obviously, this year it's not going to happen. But eventually she'll make it up here.''

Aside from its inability to get Serena Williams on the court, the Bank of the West has been quite fortunate over the years. Although it is only a Tier 2 event -- the WTA's equivalent to, say, college football's Holiday Bowl -- the tournament was the site of Venus Williams' professional debut in 1994 (Oakland was host then), lured Martina Hingis in 1997 when she was No. 1 in the world, and in 1998 boasted Davenport, Steffi Graf, Monica Seles and Venus Williams. Previous champions have included Billie Jean King, Chris Evert and Martina Navratilova.

So although the field this year lacks star power (Patty Schnyder of Switzerland is seeded third, followed by Francesca Schiavone of Italy), tournament officials have no aspirations to make the Bank of the West a Tier 1 event, which would require far more resources -- minimum prize money of $1.3 million, compared with $585,000 for a Tier 2 event -- and WTA approval. The summer Tier 1 events are in San Diego and Montreal.

``Normally, we have a player field of a Tier 1 event,'' Sampras said. ``Sometimes, our player field is better than some Tier 1s get.''

That might have been the case this year if not for bad luck. Clijsters committed early but had to withdraw. Henin-Hardenne might have entered if not for her illness. Capriati, a finalist here last year, is gearing up for the Olympics.

Then there is Sharapova, who probably would have been the headliner had she entered. But at 17, she is restricted by tour rules to 13 events this year.

``Knock on wood we'll get her next year,'' Sampras said.

So, the Bank of the West will have a fourth final between Davenport and Venus Williams, or one in which most fans will need a program to figure out who is playing.

``This is a great opportunity for Venus to get back on the right path and gear up for the U.S. Open,'' Sampras said. ``And Lindsay, this could be her swan song. As a tournament director, you'd hope they go deep into the week. But when they get on the court, anything can happen.

``Being in the game nine-plus years and watching my brother go out in the first round in a number of events that I've worked on, it's a tough thing to see happen. All I can do is set up everything the best I can, put them on the court and let them go at it.''

And with the game seemingly getting more competitive by the minute, don't be surprised if Davenport or Williams or both are gone before the final.

``I think people would be impressed with the quality and the caliber of the names there,'' said Pam Whytcross, a tour supervisor. ``Even though a lot of them aren't household names and they're tongue twisters, it's the new breed coming through. It's ever-changing.

``It's not a given who is going to win. Having said that, looking at our draw here this week, yes, Venus and Lindsay do stand out. They are the top two in the top 10. But hey, it's no guarantee.''

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post #3 of 27 (permalink) Old Jul 13th, 2004, 06:33 PM Thread Starter
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Venus: No Need for Additional Coach
'Real Serena Would Have Beaten Maria’
Schnyder: More Surprises Ahead

By Matthew Cronin
********************


Ron Cioffi
Venus: I have better abilities than anyone.

FROM THE BANK OF THE WEST CLASSIC - Venus Williams says that after her harrowing loss to Karolina Sprem at Wimbledon that she went right back on court. Moreover, she was feeling so well that she put in significant time off court, running from Florida to California and back. "I’m free."I can run and jump again," she said.

Williams blames her 7-6, 7-6 loss to Sprem on a number of factors, but one’s that been unheard of is she forgot to put her contacts in for the late afternoon-early evening contest. "I felt like I couldn’t see," she said. "The darker it got I said, ‘Oh god.’ My mom always tells me to put them in and I’m not going to tell her I didn’t."

Venus didn’t take to kindly to suggestions that she should bring in another coach or coaches to help supplement her mother and father. US Olympic coach Zina Garrison thinks she should.

"I like working with my parents," Venus said. "I don’t think Id want to work with someone else. I can blame every loss on myself. A lot of times I get out there and do something no one taught me to do. I’ve start on my own and then start doing some weird stuff. That’s might reflect badly on my coaches. But no other coach else gets that criticism. Maybe it’s the fact that they are my parents, but they’ve done a great job."

This is the first time since 1998 that Venus hasn’t reached a Slam semi in three consecutive majors. Being out-punched by Sprem in London and schooled by Anastasia Myskina at the French should be a strong sign that something is amiss technically and mentally, but Venus sometimes sees her career through the rose-colored sunglasses she was wearing on Monday. "I’m used to winning and being in the finals," she said. "I feel like I’m a better player than that and know that I’m better than that result. I know that when it comes to the abilities I have, no one on tour can match that."

Maybe not, but some certainly believe that they match up against her and will continue to do so. Jelena Kostanic, Sprem’s Fed Cup teammate, says that she had not doubt that Karolina could take down Venus and with a little more consistency should be able to do so in the future. But Venus says that a twisted ankle hurt her preparation for Roland Garros and the wrong mindset led to her loss to Sprem.

"At the French, I couldn’t keep the ball in against Myskina and didn’t play that well the whole time there," the fourth-ranked Williams said. "Against Sprem, I rushed and I never really rush. I took my eye off the ball, which is a no-no . It’s a simple thing that can hit you the hardest. I need to look at the ball. I shouldn’t be concerned about whether my shot will be a winner. I should just hit the ball and get ready for the next shot. You don’t have to be the hero and go for the great shot. At the same time, it’s easy not to be the hero and not go for the great shot. It’s finding the balance. I didn’t play a balanced match that day. But I’d rather be the hero. I have a hero complex.

While at home in Florida, Venus point set her remote at the TV during the final, when Maria Sharapova wasted Serena. Venus couldn’t believe her eyes.
"I didn’t know what was going on," she said. "I’ve been out there in those kind of matches and I can understand where she was at having a hard time keeping the ball in. I just wish I was there. Maybe I could have done something. It was a great story that Maria won but Maria didn’t play Serena Williams that day. In my opinion, if she had played Serena, then Serena would have won. After the first few shots, Serena missed and that’s not Serena. I want to play that Serena. I never get to play that Serena. I play the Serena who hits balls with fire laced on them. But that’s life."

The Williamses will be dealing with the question of whether they can dominate again all summer long. While we may never see four straight Venus v. Serena Slam finals like we saw in 2002-2003, Venus says that they will continue their assault at the top.

"The challenge for us is to be healthy and play consistently enough to get in good shape and be ready," she said. "I can only see us on the up and up. I feel like I am at that level, but I haven’t performed or haven’t had the opportunity to perform at my optimum ability. I have to put myself in that position again."

By the way, Patty Schnyder, the No. 3 seed here, believes Venus.
"Of course when don’t see the Grand Slam results you start questioning but I think she’s in good shape," Schnyder said. "Everyone has the right to lose. She works very hard and wants to be at top again."
Fred Mullane/Camerawork USA

Patty: A Slam not out of the question.
Patty Believes She Can Compete for a Slam
Like the 24-year-old Venus, the 25-year-old, Schnyder has been struggling with her confidence injures, which is maybe why she empathizes with her. An upper arm ailment ruined her clay court season but she’s 100 percent now and she feels like can climb back into the top 10. A semifinalist at the ’04 Aussie Open, the Swiss says she has a Slam in her.

"I know I can do it," she said. "I have to have a little luck but generally I feel good. I have to improve every week and keep thinking what I can do to improve. You have to be ready to learn, even from young players. I have a lot of experience but I still feel like I have a lot of years to come. I feel pressure from young players, but I enjoy the challenge and think I have a lot of years to come."

Schnyder believes that the veterans will have a lot to say about who ends the year on top. She also senses that the tour will continue to twist and turn with new faces popping in and out of the winner’s circle.

"The young ones like Myskina and Sharapova won a Slam but it’s takes a lot to be that consistent and when the Belgians come back it’s going to be tougher for the other ones," Schnyder said. "It’s possible that Myskina could end the year at No. 1, but it’s even possible that Amelie Mauresmo can end as No. 1 without winning a Grand Slam. I think we’ll see more surprises this year. "

FYI: Schnyder doesn’t believe that fellow Swiss Martina Hingis will ever return to competitive play because her foot injuries will prevent her form playing at the level she desires. "She’s so ambitious playing andsplaying at 50 percent is not what’s she wants to do," she said.

Lindsay Davenport (who’s the No. 2 seed) told a hilarious tale a few weeks back about losing and finding her 1996 Olympic god medal. Guess who lost both her 2000 versions? None other than Venus.
"I did lose mine for a time last year and it upset me so much," Venus said. "One day I found them in the guest room. I thought I had left them in the car because I had gone to talk to some kids at a school and showed them my medals. I cleaned out my car and I thought the cleaning lady had thrown out the bag. I couldn’t think of where those medals could be -- like at the bottom of some landfill. Then when I found them it was a sigh of relief."

Eleni Daniilidou and Maria Vento-Kabchi played a whale of a two and a half hour three-setter Monday night that ended with the Venezuelan lacing two back hand down the lines and crunching a service winner in a 6-3 6-7 (6-8) 7-6 (8-6) victory. The 30-year-old showed the same heart that she displayed in reaching her first Tier II semifinal here last year.

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post #4 of 27 (permalink) Old Jul 13th, 2004, 06:43 PM Thread Starter
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Venus Williams looking to return to top form

BY DARREN SABEDRA

Knight Ridder Newspapers


SAN JOSE, Calif. - (KRT) - For the first time in months, if not longer, Venus Williams is healthy. She is running and jumping and doing everything she did before a slew of injuries stopped her cold.

Maybe that will be the difference. Her body healed, maybe Williams will soon regain the form that allowed her to win back-to-back Wimbledon and U.S. Open titles in 2000 and 2001 and reach nine Grand Slam tournament finals in 2000-03.

So far this year, that player has been difficult to find. Williams, 24, lost in the third round at the Australian Open, the quarterfinals at the French and the second round at Wimbledon.

This week, the former world No. 1 will return to the court for the first time since her earliest Wimbledon exit in seven years, starting a journey she hopes will culminate in two months with her third U.S. Open title. The Bank of the West Classic's top seed will open against Lindsay Lee-Waters at Stanford's Taube Family Tennis Stadium, probably Wednesday night.

Monday, on the first day of the tournament, Williams seemed ready to go. She sauntered into the media center wearing a hot pink bandanna, slick white pants and lime green top and dismissed any notion that she doesn't yearn for more titles.

Of her loss at Wimbledon, during which her passion was called into question, in part because she didn't dispute a controversial scoring error, Williams quipped: "You know what, it was a barrel of fun. How 'bout that? I was so looking forward to that second-round loss. It just felt like, yes, this is my whole goal in life."

Williams contends it was her hurriedness at the end of the match - and not the scoring error - that led to her 7-6 (7-5), 7-6 (8-6) loss to Karolina Sprem.

"I rushed and I took my eye off the ball, which is a no-no," Williams said. "It's the simple things that can hit you the hardest. I need to look at the ball. That's my goal this week, to look at the ball."

Williams, her ranking down to 15th, hardly sounds like she is fretting about that loss or any other. Asked how close she is to rectifying her Grand Slam drought, she said: "That's an interesting question because I feel like I am at that level. I just haven't performed or had that the opportunity to perform at my optimum ability."

An abdominal injury wiped out the latter portion of Williams' 2003 season, including the U.S. Open. She returned for the Australian Open and seemed to get back on track in the spring. But then came a series of ankle twists.

"She's had every injury known to mankind," said Mary Joe Fernandez, a former top-10 player.

Williams missed several tournaments and was pretty much a shell of herself at the events she entered. But she isn't about to concede that the competition is catching up to her and her sister Serena, who also has dealt with injuries.

She says Maria Sharapova's sudden fame is a great story but adds that the Russian teenager didn't play the real Serena Williams in the Wimbledon final.

"If she had played Serena Williams, I think Serena would have won that match," Williams said. "If you look at the match, Serena missed after the first or second or third shot - and that's not Serena.

"Hey, I want to play that Serena. I don't get to play that Serena. I play the Serena who hits balls with fire laced on them. No, that wasn't Serena Williams, and that happens."

Williams knows that all too well.

Ten years ago, Williams made her professional debut at the Bank of the West, dreaming of stardom. Now that she has it, she aims to maintain it.

"Of course, if you don't see the results in the Grand Slams, you start questioning," said Patty Schnyder, the Bank of the West's third seed. "But I still think she's in good shape and playing well. She works really hard and she wants to be at the top again."

---

2004, San Jose Mercury News (San Jose, Calif.).

Visit MercuryNews.com, the World Wide Web site of the Mercury News, at http://www.mercurynews.com.

Distributed by Knight Ridder/Tribune Information Services.

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Bank of the West Classic, Stanford CA: Venus Williams is interviewed during the All-Access Hour Monday afternoon.

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Venus plays well enough to satisfy Venus
Ron Kroichick, Chronicle Staff Writer

Thursday, July 15, 2004









Venus Williams returned to the tennis court Wednesday night, exactly 20 days after her surprising second-round loss at Wimbledon. This time, she played on a hard court at Stanford, not on grass in England. This time, her ground strokes did not betray her.

This time, she won convincingly enough to satisfy her harshest critic: Venus Williams.

Williams rolled to a 6-1, 6-1 victory over Lindsay Lee-Waters in a second- round match in the Bank of the West Classic. It was a classic mismatch, as Williams needed only 51 minutes to make her superiority plain and obvious.

The win propelled Williams, the top seed, into Friday's quarterfinals, in which she will meet No. 5 seed Anna Smashnova-Pistolesi. More significantly, Wednesday night's match also persuaded Williams to stop wading in negativity.

"Sometimes, the problem is I'm too hard on myself," she said. "Tonight, I said, 'Just give it up and admit you played a decent match.' Maybe I'm a perfectionist, and sometimes that holds me back. I'm always thinking about things I did wrong instead of what I did well."

Williams did little wrong in coasting past Lee-Waters, a Georgian ranked No. 96 in the world. It was the first tournament match for Williams since her exit from Wimbledon, when she fell to Karolina Sprem in straight sets.

Since then, Williams has been training in sweltering Florida, happily past ankle injuries that have hounded her most of the year. She moved exceptionally well in beating Lee-Waters, roaming the baseline with her customary quickness and grace.

"I think I was moving better today," Williams said. "I'm just feeling a whole lot better in terms of not being winded, not being tired because I didn't have the proper training."

One illustration of star power: Seven still photographers sat courtside for the match, and on most points, all seven cameras were aimed directly at Williams. That left Lee-Waters to occupy the other side of the court in virtual seclusion, a necessary accessory for the Venus Show.

Lee-Waters still provided some entertainment, though not the kind conducive to stirring photos. After she sent one forehand sailing long, she muttered softly, "You never miss that." Later, she paused to have an extended chat with herself, clearly frustrated at the abundance of mistakes she was making.

Maybe it was a case of Lee-Waters becoming nervous in her first match against a Top 10 opponent. Or maybe Williams at her court-covering, ball- crushing best forces foes into uncharacteristic errors.

"Venus is a great player, it was a great experience," Lee-Waters said. "I never felt like I really relaxed. I let her dictate the match and take it to me."

In an earlier second-round match Wednesday, unseeded Mashona Washington outlasted former Stanford star Marissa Irvin. Washington's 6-1, 3-6, 6-3 victory vaulted her into the quarterfinals of a significant WTA Tour event for the first time in her career.

Washington, 28, is the younger sister of 1996 Wimbledon men's finalist MaliVai Washington. Mashona has lingered on the edges of the pro game for a decade, a world of qualifying rounds and challenger tournaments.

Now, though, Washington stands on the brink of a quarterfinal match against Lindsay Davenport, the No. 5 player in the world and a three-time Grand Slam champion. Davenport first faces Lioudmila Skavronskaia in tonight's featured match.

"It would be a great opportunity," Washington said. "That will let me know where I really am."

Briefly: Williams' presence attracted a crowd of 3,427 on Wednesday night, more than the tournament's first two nights combined (3,395).
Today at Stanford

Times are for the first match of each session, with other matches to follow:

10 a.m. Jelena Kostanic vs. No. 4 seed Francesca Schiavone; Marion Bartoli vs. No. 6 seed Amy Frazier; No. 3 seed Patty Schnyder vs. Nicole Pratt; No. 4 seed Kostanic/Janet Lee vs. Alina Jidkova/Lindsay Lee-Waters

4 p.m. Teryn Ashley/Abigail Spears vs. No. 3 Petra Mandula/Schnyder 7:30 p.m. Lioudmila Skavronskaia vs. No. 2 seed Lindsay Davenport; No. 1 seed Meilen Tu/Maria Vento-Kabchi vs. Iveta Benesova/Claudine Schaul E-mail Ron Kroichick at [email protected].

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VENUS STROLLS TO VICTORY



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Venus Williams was not challenged in her first match since a stunning early exit from Wimbledon.

Williams waxed fellow American Lindsay Lee-Waters, 6-1 6-1, on Wednesday night to advance to the quarter-finals of the Bank of the West Classic.

The top seed in Stanford, Williams was shocked by Croatian Karolina Sprem in the second round of Wimbledon, 7-6 (7-5) 7-6 (8-6) - her earliest exit at the All-England Club since her debut in 1997, when she lost in the first round.

As one of the top four seeds in this competition, Williams received a first-round bye.

In other second-round matches on Wednesday, fifth seed Anna Smashnova-Pistolesi of Israel rallied to defeat Spaniard Arantxa Parra Santonja, 3-6 7-5 6-2, and eighth seed Maria Vento-Kabchi of Venezuela routed German Anca Barna, 6-2 6-2.

Also, Mashona Washington beat fellow American Marissa Irvin, 6-1 3-6 6-3, to reach the quarter-finals.

In early first-round matches on Wednesday, American qualifier Ashley Harkleroad was edged by Croatian Jelena Kostanic, 7-5 4-6 6-1, and Australian Nicole Pratt eliminated Jelena Jankovic of Serbia & Montenegro, 6-4 6-3.

First prize at this hardcourt tournament is $93,000.

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Ten years later, Williams back where it started
Ron Kroichick, Chronicle Staff Writer

Tuesday, July 13, 2004









Venus Williams sat on a folding chair Monday at Taube Tennis Center. She wore a hot pink bandana and a bright green sweatshirt. She was alternately funny and sarcastic, serious and introspective.

At one point, reflecting on her early exit from Wimbledon last month, Williams talked of rushing her shots, taking her eye off the ball at inopportune moments.

"That's my goal this week -- look at the ball," she said, smiling.

Ten years after making her professional debut in the Bay Area -- at age 14, Williams lost in the second round in Oakland -- she's back once again. Williams is the No. 1 seed in the Bank of the West Classic, which began its weeklong run at Stanford on Monday.

Williams won the Bank of the West in 2000 and 2002, but she bypassed this tournament last year so her sister, Serena, could make her debut in the event. That didn't work out, because Serena withdrew with a knee injury.

Now the stage belongs to Venus Williams and Lindsay Davenport, the only marquee names in a strangely unglamorous field. Williams brings plenty of glamour, but she also shows up without a Grand Slam title since the 2001 U.S. Open and fresh off a perplexing, second-round loss at Wimbledon.

Not only did she fall 7-6, 7-6 to Karolina Sprem on June 24, Williams failed to question an obvious scoring error by chair umpire Ted Watts. She seemed uninspired and indifferent, an odd sight at the sport's most storied tournament, in which she had reached the final four consecutive times (winning twice).

Eighteen days later, Williams refused to blame her loss on Watts' mistake, which handed Sprem a point in the second-set tiebreaker. Williams insisted the defeat did bother her, outward evidence to the contrary.

"It was a barrel of fun," she said, sarcasm dripping, before turning serious. "I'm pretty much used to winning, being in the finals. I know I'm a better player than that result. When it comes to some of the abilities I have, no one on tour can match that."

This bravado befits a 24-year-old with four Grand Slam titles and more than $13 million in career earnings. Even so, Williams' subpar results at this year's Slams -- she also lost in the third round in Australia and in the quarterfinals at the French -- punctured her aura.

Williams stands on the verge of failing to reach the finals in at least one Grand Slam event for the first time since 1999.

"I think she still has the aura -- I mean, she's a Grand Slam champ," said Lindsay Lee-Waters, who will face Williams in a second-round match, probably Wednesday night. "It's tough for anyone to come back from injuries and get your game where it was."

Among the topics Williams covered Monday:

-- On her string of injuries, from a torn abdominal muscle last year to two sprained ankles this year: "Right now, physically, I would say I'm the best I've been all year. For the first time, I've been able to run, train, be in shape. ... I can't say it's great fun, but it's nice I'm able to do that."

-- On her sister's loss to Maria Sharapova in the Wimbledon final: "It was a great story that Maria won, but Maria didn't play Serena Williams that day. In my mind, if she played Serena Williams, Serena would have won the match. I wish I could play that Serena (the one who struggled against Sharapova). I play the Serena who hits balls with fire laced on them."

-- On Olympic coach Zina Garrison's suggestion that Venus might need a coach in addition to her parents, Richard and Oracene: "I like working with my parents. I don't think I want to work with someone else. And I can blame every single mistake and every single loss on myself."

Briefly: Lee-Waters advanced with a 6-2, 6-4 victory over Angela Haynes in a first-round match. ... In Monday night's match, Maria Vento-Kabchi beat Eleni Daniilidou 6-3, 6-7 (8-6), 7-6 (8-6). ... Davenport, the No. 2 seed, likely will make her tournament debut Thursday night.
Today at Stanford

Times are for first match of each session, with other matches to follow as listed.

10 a.m., Stadium Court: Washington vs. Schaul, Jamea Jackson vs. Anna Smashnova-Pistolesi, Jidkova/Lee-Waters vs. Harkleroad/Tarabini, Liggan/Parra Santonja vs. Mandula/Schnyder

1 p.m., Court 7: Kostanic/Lee vs. Osterloh/Zalameda, Benesova/Schaul vs. Haynes/Jankovic, Tue/Vento-Kabchi vs. Augustus/Grandin 7:30 p.m., Stadium Court: Frazier vs. Liu, Shaughnessy vs. Irvin E-mail Ron Kroichick at rkroich[email protected].

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Bank of the West Classic, Stanford CA: Top seed and two-time winner of the event, Venus Williams chatted with some of the guests at the player party.

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Venus Williams hits a backhand against Lindsay Lee-Waters in a second-round match, Wednesday, July 14, 2004, at the Bank of the West Classic in Stanford, Calif. Williams beat Lee-Waters 6-1, 6-1.

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Venus Williams throws up her hands after beating Lindsay Lee-Waters 6-1, 6-1 in a second-round match Wednesday, July 14, 2004, at the Bank of the West Classic in Stanford, Calif.

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[img]http://images2.**************/images/thumbnail/3075397.jpg[/img][img]http://images2.**************/images/thumbnail/3075401.jpg[/img][img]http://images2.**************/images/thumbnail/3075402.jpg[/img][img]http://images2.**************/images/thumbnail/3075403.jpg[/img][img]http://images2.**************/images/thumbnail/3075406.jpg[/img]


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Bank of the West Classic, Stanford CA: Venus speaks with the media after reaching the quarterfinals for a sixth time.

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Williams reaches Stanford quarterfinals in rout
July 15, 2004
AP

STANFORD, Calif. (AP) Top-seeded Venus Williams advanced to the quarterfinals of the Bank of the West Classic with a 6-1, 6-1 victory Wednesday night over Lindsay Lee-Waters.

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Williams needed just 51 minutes to win her first match at the tournament, beating the world's 96th-ranked player with ease. Williams will face fifth-seeded Anna Smashnova-Pistolesi on Friday.

Williams, currently ranked fourth, is a two-time champion in this event, winning in 2000 and 2002. She also lost the title match in 1998 and 1999 to Lindsay Davenport, the second-seeded player this year.

Though she has struggled with injuries to her right leg and left ankle in recent months, Williams won consecutive titles in Charleston, S.C., and Warsaw, Poland, with two Fed Cup victories in between.

"They're definitely behind me," Williams said of her injuries. "I think I was moving better, and definitely just feeling a whole lot better as far as not being winded. ... In these conditions, it's not really warm to me at all. I could run forever, it seems."

Still, Williams has much to prove this season, particularly after a second-round upset loss at Wimbledon - her third straight early exit from a Grand Slam tournament. Her rehab has included nearly as much work on her mental game as her conditioning.

"The problem is sometimes I'm actually too hard on myself," she said. "You shouldn't dwell on the bad moments, especially since there's been so many. I didn't think like that. Now I'm thinking about each and every error as if it's monumental and life-threatening, which it isn't."

In early matches at Stanford's Taube Family Tennis Stadium, Smashnova-Pistolesi defeated Arantxa Parra Santonja 3-6, 7-5, 6-2 to reach the quarterfinals.

Eighth-seeded Maria Vento-Kabchi and unseeded American Mashona Washington also advanced to the quarterfinals, while Jelena Kostanic, Nicole Pratt and Marion Bartoli won first-round matches.

Washington, the world's 101st-ranked player, followed up her first-round upset of Claudine Schaul with a 6-1, 3-6, 6-3 victory over Marissa Irvin, who knocked off seventh-seeded Meghann Shaughnessy a day earlier.

Washington, a lucky loser who got in the Stanford draw after an injury to Lubomira Kurhajcova, reached a WTA quarterfinal for just the second time in her career - the first since 1999 in Quebec City.


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Venus Williams tops Frazier to reach Stanford final
July 17, 2004
AP

STANFORD, Calif. (AP) Venus Williams overpowered Amy Frazier for a 6-3, 6-1 victory Saturday to reach the final of the Bank of the West Classic.

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Williams recovered from a slow start and advanced to the tournament's title match for the fifth time in seven years. Frazier double-faulted 14 times and made 33 unforced errors under oppressive sun at Stanford's Taube Family Tennis Center.

"It really was her double-faults that hurt her a lot," Williams said. "I think it's good to come out and play really tough and really hard. I need to be in those situations. ... It is nice to keep (the matches) short, especially with a couple of tough weeks coming up."

Williams, seeded first and ranked fourth, will face the winner of the semifinal between second-seeded Lindsay Davenport and Venezuela's Maria Vento-Kabchi.

Williams and Davenport are two-time Bank of the West champions, with Williams defeating Davenport four years ago in their only previous finals meeting. After losing nine of the first 12 meetings, Williams has won 10 of their last 11. And with Davenport probably leaving tennis after this year, it could be the last match for the California natives.

"I'll definitely miss playing her, that's for sure, if she decides to retire," Williams said. "When I first came out, she was a tough player to play against. For whatever reason, I just had a real tough time against her. What really changed is that I learned how to play, pretty much."

Frazier earned consecutive service breaks on Williams in the first set, taking a 3-2 lead - but her game fell apart. She made nine double-faults in the first set, most while losing four straight games.

The serve problems continued in the second set, while Williams' groundstrokes got stronger. Even Frazier knew she was done late in the match when Williams' serve was called out - but Frazier overruled, giving Williams an ace and a 4-0 lead.

"I wish I could blame the sun, but I knew she was going to return really well, so I felt pressure from the beginning," Frazier said. "Once she got the momentum, she cut down on her unforced errors. I was feeling more pressure, and it was a bit of a snowball effect."

Frazier, who turns 32 in September, made her 14th straight appearance in the tournament, and she sees no reason she won't be back. Though considerably older than many top women's players, she still produces steady results around the world.

"I love playing, and I still really enjoy playing," Frazier said. "I try not to plan anything too far in advance. As long as I'm enjoying playing, I'll play."

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