It’s unfortunate that the two hottest players in the women’s draw face each other today in the quarterfinals instead of Thursday or Saturday.
No. 4 Jennifer Capriati, of course, is the sports world’s current comeback queen. The bloated, shoplifting, drug-using, teen bust of the 1990s has miraculously returned to the pinnacle of the sport, taking the season’s first two majors in the most unlikely Grand Slam bid in history.
No. 5 Serena Williams, on the other hand, hasn’t reached a major championship final since her shocking breakout victory at the 1999 U.S. Open. But thus far, nobody in the women’s draw at Wimbledon has been as dominant as Williams, who has lost just 11 games in her four straight-set victories at the All England Club.
Capriati beat Sandrine Testud 6-1, 6-2 yesterday to advance, while Williams topped Magdalena Maleeva 6-2, 6-1.
In light of recent history, perhaps the 25-year-old Capriati should get the favorite’s nod. Not only is she on a major roll, but Capriati has beaten the 19-year-old Williams in their last three meetings, the most recent coming in the quarterfinals of this year’s French Open (6-2, 5-7, 6-2).
“I was hitting a lot of errors and going crazy,” Williams said of that loss. “I was so dissatisfied with the way I played. I’ve been more determined after that match.”
But last year at Wimbledon, Williams was on a similar tear and sounded similarly determined heading into her semifinal matchup with sister, Venus. That confrontation resulted in a nightmare of unforced errors for Serena. Her older sister pounded her 6-2, 7-6 (3), scraped her teary-eyed, ego-shattered body off the turf and ushered her off the court.
Still, Serena says she is more wary this year of the competitive numbness that comes with a string of easy victories. And if anything, her greatest emotional hurdle could be controlling her desperate desire to topple Capriati en route to a potential title-match showdown with Venus.
“I think she’s probably going to be pretty eager, especially against me since I just beat her twice,” Capriati said. “She probably wants to get revenge.”
The other quarterfinal matchups also were determined yesterday.
Third-seeded Lindsay Davenport, last year’s runner-up and the ‘99 champion, will play seventh-seeded Kim Clijsters, the French Open finalist.
“I’m sure her level of confidence has got to be higher than it was three or four weeks ago, but so is mine,” said Davenport, who defeated Jelena Dokic of Yugoslavia 7-5, 6-4 yesterday and is unbeaten on grass since coming back almost three weeks ago from a three-month layoff with a knee injury.
Clijsters defeated American Meghann Shaughnessy 7-6 (2) 7-6 (5). She’s just as competitive as her father, Leo, the soccer player of the year in Belgium in 1988.
“I think that’s where I get it from,” she said. “I hate losing in any game.”
Venus Williams, the defending champion, hardly drew a deep breath reaching the quarterfinals. She beat Russian Nadia Petrova 6-2, 6-0 and will face Nathalie Tauziat. Tauziat, playing her 16th and last Wimbledon, defeated Tamarine Tanasugarn 6-3, 6-2.
Today’s other quarterfinal pits 19th-seeded Conchita Martinez against Justine Henin, who was eliminated in the French Open semifinals by Clijsters.
Martinez defeated unseeded Lina Krasnoroutskaya of Russia 6-3, 6-4. Eighth-seeded Henin won over 18th-seeded Anke Huber 4-6, 6-2, 6-2.
Martinez or Henin will reach the semifinals and meet either Capriati or Serena Williams. In the bottom half of the draw, Clijsters or Davenport will play either Tauziat or Venus Williams.
This article is based in part on wire service reports.