Venus, Clijsters advance to final

Posted: Sunday, July 28, 2002

STANFORD, Calif. (AP) -- Defending champion Kim Clijsters wore down Lindsay Davenport 4-6, 6-4, 6-2 Saturday to advance to the Bank of the West Classic final.

Fourth-seeded Clijsters will face top seed Venus Williams, who defeated Lisa Raymond earlier in the day, in the title match on Sunday.

Second-seeded Davenport, playing in her first tour event since November because of a serious knee injury, came out with confidence while Clijsters struggled to find her serve. Davenport took advantage -- breaking the young Belgian in the first set after two double faults. Up 4-2 in the second set, Davenport suddenly lost her edge.

Clijsters held serve to go up 5-4, then broke Davenport to win the set.

Clijsters, ranked No. 5, won seven straight games during the match as Davenport's frustration grew and she was unable to regain her early poise.

Davenport injured her right knee last in the semifinals of the Sanex Championships against Clijsters. She had surgery in January.

In the earlier semifinal match at Taube Family Tennis Stadium, Williams overpowered unseeded Raymond 6-3, 6-0.

Williams, ranked No. 2 in the world behind her sister, Serena, hammered serves reaching 118 mph to fluster Raymond, ranked No. 28.

''It's always pretty effective, but when it's really effective it's better for me,'' Williams said of her serve. ''It makes the match a little easier.''

With father Richard looking on, Williams sealed the first set with two consecutive aces, the first at 111 mph and the second at 110 mph.

In the second set, Raymond held nothing back, laboring to hit winners from the baseline. But Williams was too much, putting the match away in 51 minutes.

Raymond remained good-natured throughout, raising her hands in victory when she won a rare point in the second set. The crowd responded with warm applause.

''I think if I'd kept it a little closer I would have had a better chance,'' she said.

Raymond, at 28 the oldest player in the semifinals, won the title at Memphis earlier this year. She upset third-seeded Monica Seles on Friday in the quarterfinals to advance.

Williams, who defeated Anna Kournikova to reach the semifinals, went up 4-0 in the second set with two aces and a service winner that Raymond couldn't handle. She finished the match with nine aces.

Williams lost to her sister in the Wimbledon final, dropping to the No. 2 ranking.

''Once you get to No. 1, it's not so nice to go back to No. 2,'' she said. ''Once you get to that level, you try to maintain it.''

Serena Williams was not playing in the Bank of the West, but was spotted in Los Angeles watching the Mercedes-Benz Cup match between Andre Agassi and Gustavo Kuerten on Friday.

''Maybe she's trying to learn something,'' Williams said. ''Maybe I should be there, too.''

Davenport defeated fifth-seeded Jelena Dokic to advance to the semifinals, while Clijsters beat wild card Jelena Jankovic.

Kournikova was forced to withdraw from her doubles semifinal match Saturday afternoon because of an abdominal strain. Kournikova and partner Meghann Shaughnessy were scheduled to play Raymond and Rennae Stubbs.

Kournikova suffered the strain in practice Friday and aggravated it during her matches. She will be re-evaluated to determine her status for next week's Acura Classic in San Diego.

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