- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 7, 2000

NEW YORK Shoulders slumped, Serena Williams paced a small circle on the baseline, her expression shifting from resolve to desperation to sheer incredulity.

Down a set and a break in her quarterfinal match with Lindsay Davenport, she had already tried a bit of everything wild, swinging backhands, a forehand drop volley and even a smashed racquet, a victim of momentum and the DecoTurf II court.

None of it worked.

Riding the unforgiving groundstrokes and unerring accuracy that helped her capture the Australian Open in January, No. 2 seed Davenport advanced to the semifinals of the U.S. Open, defeating No. 5 seed and defending champion Williams 6-4, 6-2 before 23,137 last night at Arthur Ashe Stadium.

Davenport snapped a five-match losing streak to Williams, including a three-set loss in last year's U.S. Open semifinal.

"[Martina] Hingis was giving me a hard time, saying, 'You have to beat [Serena],' " Davenport said. "But it wasn't serious. It was just joking."

Davenport next faces surprise semifinalist Elena Dementieva, an unseeded Russian teen-ager who knocked off No. 10 seed Anke Huber 6-1, 3-6, 6-3. On the men's side, Australian up-and-comer Lleyton Hewitt also advanced to his first Grand Slam semifinal by dispatching Arnaud Clement, 6-2, 6-4, 6-3.

The late quarterfinal match was between No. 4 seed Pete Sampras, the highest remaining men's seed, and unseeded Richard Krajicek. The winner moves on to play Hewitt.

Early yesterday, Todd Martin put on the greatest show of this year's Open with a comeback from two sets down to beat Carlos Moya 6-7 (3), 6-7 (7), 6-1, 7-6 (6), 6-2. At 1:22 a.m., after 4 hours, 17 minutes of drama, Martin happily smashed his racket on the court and raced around the stadium slapping hands with hundreds of the hardy fans.

Williams started off in powerful fashion, pushing a slow-starting Davenport to three break points in the second game of the match. But Davenport held, and Williams lost her composure: Down a break and facing Davenport's serve at 5-4 and deuce in the first set, she mishit a backhand into the net, then crushed her racquet against the ground to draw a warning from the chair umpire.

"I think that deflated her a little bit," Davenport said.

After peeling the plastic wrap off a new racquet, Williams returned to the match and ripped a winner to even the score at deuce. However, she would get no closer, hitting a pair of shots long and losing the set 6-4.

"Lindsay just played a little better," Williams said during a testy postmatch press conference that saw her walk out after less than a dozen questions. "I wasn't on my best game, and you can't afford to be off your best game in the quarters of a Grand Slam."

While Williams struggled, Davenport settled into a groove, posting two service breaks and taking a 5-1 lead in the second set. Williams dug in during the next game, fending off five match points and pulling to 5-2. But Davenport unleashed a pair of aces to set up match point, and Williams hit a return into the net to close out the match.

"I played exactly the way I wanted to," Davenport said. "And that's tough to do when you go for a lot of shots and winners."

Davenport's victory eliminates the possibility of a much-anticipated all-Williams championship. Venus Williams, the No. 3 seed, can still reach the final with a win over No. 1 seed Hingis tomorrow.

"Unfortunately, I didn't pull up my end this year," Serena Williams said. "But it's going to happen. It's inevitable."

With little to her credit save a come-from-behind Fed Cup victory over Venus Williams last year, Dementieva, 18, entered the tournament largely unknown and certianly less exposed than her oft-downloaded countrywoman, Anna Kournikova. Yet by beating Huber, Dementieva not only equaled Kournikova's best Grand Slam performance (1997 Wimbledon semifinals), but also became first unseeded woman to reach the U.S. Open semifinals since Venus Williams in 1997.

"[This is] just amazing," Dementieva said. "Two years ago, I just watched [Martina Hingis, Davenport, the Williams sisters] on TV. I didn't think I could play like I play now."

Against Huber, Dementieva relied on speed and shotmaking as well as some untimely mishits from her opponent to survive a sloppy afternoon match that featured 78 unforced errors and 15 double faults combined.

After cruising through the first set and breaking Huber for a 3-2 lead in the second, Dementieva stalled, dropping her next two service games and the set. However, Huber seemed equally determined to give away the match: In the third set, she hit a double fault and a backhand into the net for a 2-2 service break, then smacked a gimme forehand into the net on another break point.

Up 5-3, Dementieva finished the match with a pair of hustling, well-placed drop volleys.

"I should have won today," Huber said. "This was a great chance to make the semifinals. I should have taken it. I had a lot of chances."

For his part, No. 9 seed Hewitt, 19, made the most of his opportunity to become the youngest man to reach the U.S. Open semifinals since Sampras won the tournament in 1990. Unloading a career-high 18 aces, Hewitt simply swamped Clement, an unseeded Frenchman who victimized top seed Andre Agassi in the second round.

The tenacious, fist-pumping Hewitt has enjoyed a breakout season, tying for the ATP lead with four tournament titles and drawing praise from Sampras, who lost to Hewitt in the finals of the Queen's Club tournament in June.

"As soon as I got into the top 10, I started to believe I should be there," Hewitt said. "I want to cement my spot. This is just another step."

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