- The Washington Times - Monday, June 30, 2003

WIMBLEDON, England — When it comes to inspired hooey, Richard Williams stands alone. Possibly on the top floor of New York’s Rockefeller Center, the building he once claimed he planned to purchase.

Speaking to the BBC over the weekend, however, Williams sounded a Wimbledon warning — one that seems increasingly prescient.

“If Venus decides to play, I don’t think anyone can touch her,” he said.

Looking nothing like the injured, passive presence who made an early exit at the French Open, Williams lived up to her father’s billing yesterday, trouncing Vera Zvonareva 6-1, 6-3 in the fourth round at Wimbledon.

With the victory, fourth-seeded Williams advances to a Centre Court quarterfinal meeting with No.5 Lindsay Davenport, a 6-4, 6-1 winner over Shinobu Asagoe.

“That’s what it all builds up to, important matches,” Williams said. “I feel I’ll be ready.”

Williams led a straight-sets American sweep into the quarterfinals, as top-seeded little sister Serena topped No.15 Elena Dementieva 6-2, 6-2, and No.8 Jennifer Capriati defeated No.10 Anastasia Myskina 6-2, 6-3.

Also advancing were hard-hitting Belgians Kim Clijsters and Justine Henin-Hardenne. Second-seeded Clijsters pounded doubles partner and No.13 Ai Sugiyama 6-3, 6-2, while the third-seeded Henin-Hardenne was a 6-3, 6-3 winner over unseeded Mary Pierce.

In other fourth-round matches, No.27 Silvia Farina Elia topped Paola Suarez 7-5, 7-6 (3), and No.33 Svetlana Kuznetsova defeated 16-year-old wild card Maria Sharapova 6-1, 2-6, 7-5.

In today’s quarterfinals, Serena Williams faces Capriati, Clijsters takes on Farina Elia, and Henin-Hardenne goes against Kuznetsova.

The Venus Williams-Davenport contest will be a rematch of the 2000 Wimbledon final won by Venus.

“Breaking though and winning that first Grand Slam, I think it gave [Venus] all the confidence in the world to go on and beat every player,” Davenport said. “Including me.”

A two-time Wimbledon winner and former world No.1, Venus entered this year’s tournament on a low note — struggling with an abdominal strain, beaten by baby sis in three of the last four major finals and showing more interest in fashion design than in maintaining her position at the top of the game.

As recently as last week, Richard Williams suggested his daughter had grown complacent and would be out of tennis in a few years, a notion Venus refuted.

“[Im] definitely not complacent,” she said. “I have to find the right balance of just confidence and staying calm and executing.”

Venus certainly appeared confident — and healthy — against Zvonareva, a 20-year-old Russian who upset her in the fourth round of the French Open.

Uncorking 119-mph serves and unleashing her trademark swinging forehand volley, Williams dismissed the 16th seed in just 59 minutes, at one point leaving Zvonareva flat on her back with a change-of-pace drop volley.

For her part, Zvonareva was so discombobulated by Williams’ blistering, high-pressure returns that during the second set she held a ball aloft, imploring it to behave. Not that it did much good.

“To be honest, it was nice to have a win, but I would have liked to have played better,” Williams said. “It’s impossible to play perfect every match, so now, I guess [theres] maybe a little bit of a relief that I’ve had a little of an off match. So the rest of the matches I can be on.”

That’s a scary proposition for Davenport, the 1999 champion who came into the fortnight with reduced expectations after her third major injury in less than a year.

Nevertheless, Davenport’s still-improving form was more than good enough against Asagoe, whose early challenge quickly wilted.

“I’m happy to reach this round,” Davenport said. “This was my goal at the beginning of the tournament. I’ve got to go out there tomorrow and be aggressive, try and put some pressure on.

“You’ve got to be able to hold your serve with the Williamses all the way through the match. It’s tough to break them. I’m going to go out there and give it my best shot.”

With all of the tournament’s top seeds still alive, Davenport knows that nothing less will suffice.

“The top players are playing well right now, have moved through the last few rounds,” she said. “You want to get to this point, get the tournament going. Hopefully, everybody is ready.”

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