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Venus exacts family revenge

Posted: Tuesday, June 28, 2005

 

  Venus Williams, of the USA, serves to Jill Craybas, of the USA, at Wimbledon Monday, June 27, 2005. Williams won 6-0, 6-2. AP Photo/Franka Bruns

Venus Williams, of the USA, serves to Jill Craybas, of the USA, at Wimbledon Monday, June 27, 2005. Williams won 6-0, 6-2.

AP Photo/Franka Bruns

WIMBLEDON, England — The second Monday at Wimbledon offers the rare treat of all 16 men's and women's fourth-round matches, and on this particular afternoon there was the even rarer sight of Venus Williams playing confident, mistake-free tennis.

Less than 48 hours after sitting with chin on hand while watching her sister Serena lose to Jill Craybas, Williams strode onto the same court against the same opponent, more concerned with righting her own game than restoring family pride.

She managed to do both. Williams won the first six games and the last six to overwhelm Craybas 6-0, 6-2, looking a lot more like the player who won Wimbledon and the U.S. Open in 2000 and 2001 than one who hasn't reached a Grand Slam semifinal in two years.

Asked whether facing someone who just beat Serena particularly pumps her up, Williams looked down and laughed.

''I definitely would like to do it a little bit for my sister,'' she said, then paused before adding this telling phrase: ''but mostly for me.''

Williams used her 6-foot-1 frame to track down Craybas' shots to the corners and to win 13 of 14 points at the net. She limited her unforced errors to four in the first set, and after falling behind 2-0 in the second, Williams broke back at love.

''She was really fired up today,'' Craybas said. ''She definitely has a chance to win the tournament.''

First things first, though, starting with a match Tuesday against No. 12 Mary Pierce, back in the Wimbledon quarterfinals after a nine-year absence. It's a strong follow-up to reaching the French Open final.

Williams last went that far at a major at Wimbledon in 2003, also the last time she made a Slam's final four. She won only one title in the past 13 months, and that was a lower-level event where she didn't face anyone ranked above 39th. So her apparent resurgence was the most noteworthy development on a day filled with passing moments of interest for the record attendance of 41,386.

Some were the sort of odd occurrences brought about by the pressure of playing on Centre Court, such as Kim Clijsters' three double-faults in the final game of her 6-3, 6-7 (4), 6-3 loss to 1999 Wimbledon champion Lindsay Davenport. Or No. 24-seeded Taylor Dent simply watching a shot land at his feet — clearly in — to give away a break-point chance at 5-4 in the second set of 2002 Wimbledon winner Lleyton Hewitt's 6-4, 6-4, 6-7 (7), 6-3 victory.

There were instances of frustration, such as over on cozier Court 18, where No. 10 Mario Ancic, a semifinalist last year, let out his anger after getting broken by No. 26 Feliciano Lopez to start the second set. Ancic picked up a bottle and chucked it, then tossed his racket, which a ball boy fetched. Ancic finished the job by spiking and breaking the racket.

Lopez won 6-4, 6-4, 6-2 to become the first Spanish man in the Wimbledon quarterfinals since 1972, while No. 21 Fernando Gonzalez defeated No. 31 Mikhail Youzhny 7-6 (3), 7-6 (5), 6-3 to give Chile its first man in the final eight since 1985.

If tennis' global reach is expanding, nothing comes close to matching the impressive strides made by Russia's women. They won three Grand Slam titles last year and now have four quarterfinalists at a major for the first time: defending champion Maria Sharapova, No. 5 Svetlanta Kuznetsova, No. 8 Nadia Petrova and No. 9 Anastasia Myskina.

Sharapova didn't face a break point in her 6-4, 6-2 victory over No. 16 Nathalie Dechy. Myskina, meanwhile, trailed by a set and two breaks against yet another Russian, No. 6 Elena Dementieva, who eventually held two match points. But Myskina came all the way back to win the rematch of the 2004 French Open final 1-6, 7-6 (9), 7-5.

U.S. Open champion Kuznetsova's explanation for her countrywomen's success?

''Because nobody will give you nothing for free in Russia,'' she said, ''and you have to do the work for it.''

Kuznetsova plays Davenport next. Tuesday's other women's quarterfinals: Sharapova vs. Petrova, and Myskina vs. No. 3 Amelie Mauresmo.

The men's quarterfinals Wednesday: No. 1 Roger Federer vs. Gonzalez, No. 2 Andy Roddick vs. No. 9 Sebastien Grosjean, No. 3 Hewitt vs. Lopez, and No. 12 Thomas Johansson vs. No. 18 David Nalbandian.

Two-time defending champion Federer beat Juan Carlos Ferrero 6-3, 6-4, 7-6 (6), while Roddick defeated Guillermo Coria 6-3, 7-6 (1), 6-4. Roddick and Federer appear to be on course for a second consecutive final.

''It's in the back of my mind. It's obviously something that I think about and dream about,'' Roddick said. ''But ... I'm not good enough to overlook the next two matches.''

He was being modest, but that last sentence could very well have been spoken by Williams recently.

It couldn't have been easy to go from No. 1 in the world to No. 2 in her family, reaching Slam final after Slam final, only to lose to little sis. Add in the shooting death of her half-sister, plus assorted injuries, and there are plenty of explanations for the elder Williams' slide to 16th in the rankings.

''I've always felt like she's just a few matches away from getting a lot of confidence back,'' said Davenport, who beat Clijsters at a second straight major after losing their previous six matches. ''The last 12 or 14 months haven't gone the way her career began for her, and she's still out there battling.''

Williams' father, Richard, said Serena headed home to have a doctor check her injured left ankle. But their mother watched Venus and Mark Knowles beat Todd Perry and Els Callens in mixed doubles in the evening, another victory on a long day.

''Venus is on a good trail right now,'' Richard Williams said.



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