V. Williams to meet Davenport in semis; World Nos. 3, 2 advance at Advanta Championships; Tennis


VILLANOVA, Pa. -- Almost everyone wants to be No. 1 at something. And world No. 3 Venus Williams is no exception. She dreams of the day when she'll be No. 1 in the world of women's professional tennis.

But, for now, she'd be happy to be No. 2, and that's what she's working toward.

Today, in the semifinals of the Advanta Championships at Villanova University, Williams has the opportunity to play the current No. 2 player, Lindsay Davenport, and climb closer to her goal.

"She's No. 2; I'm No. 3," said Williams, whose career record vs. Davenport is 3-8, but 2-2 this year. "I've beaten her the last two times we've played. I think I have nothing to lose."

The two advanced to the semifinals yesterday by beating two Frenchwomen in the quarterfinals. Davenport overcame a slow start to defeat No. 5 seed Julie Halard-Decugis, 4-6, 6-2, 6-1, while Williams held off a determined Sandrine Testud, 6-1, 7-6 (9-7).

In today's other semifinal, No. 1 Martina Hingis, a 7-6 (7-3), 6-4 winner over Amy Frazier last night, will meet Frenchwoman Nathalie Tauziat, the No. 4 seed. Tauziat advanced by defeating Wayne, Pa., native Lisa Raymond, 7-6 (7-3), 6-4.

Tauziat, 32, is the oldest woman left in this tournament, but said she is looking forward to using her experience against Hingis tonight.

"The last time we played, I lost in three sets," said Tauziat, who is ranked a career-high No. 7. "I hope to play well, and my experience is very important. I am proud of my age and of what I've been able to accomplish. And you know, there is nothing for me to lose against Martina. On this tour, everyone always looks at the young girls. They are not so much concerned with the old women."

Williams, at 19 one of those young players on which the general public concentrates, has been in a happy mood this week and enjoyed sharing some of her experiences at a clothing design school (which she declined to identify), which she is attending with her sister, U.S. Open champion Serena Williams.

Venus giggled non-stop as she told about the perils of classes on clothing construction.

"You don't know how to do it," she said. "The teacher shows you how to do it perfect. Then you have to do it perfect, and you don't know. It's like if I show you a perfect forehand on Friday and tell you that you have to do a perfect forehand on Monday. I'm always ripping seams out!

"School is horrible. When Serena and I were talking about going, we were laughing and thinking how much fun it would be. Then we got there and realized it is not a joke. The joke is on us. We had a test on sewing a perfect circle and I got a 60 percent. It's so ridiculous. I got a grade of 60 percent, and I'm happy because it's so hard!"

But the two of them, she said, have learned a valuable lesson.

"Tennis is really a dream world," Williams said. "Other people are out there fighting for a job, learning to sew perfect circles, looking for work. Serena and I, we're gifted to be playing tennis."

Yesterday, the gifts were clearly on display.

It was the quarterfinals and Williams came out serving big and attacking. For her efforts, she rolled over Testud in the first set, then the two engaged in a battle of wills. Each seemed about to tear the ball from its cover as they blasted forehands and backhands and serves, seemingly at light speed.

Finally, in the second-set tiebreaker, Williams pressed Testud into hitting a forehand long to set up her second match point opportunity at 8-7. She scored the match winner with a low, overhead slam.

"I missed one point in the tiebreak at 4-4 that could have set me up to take the set," said Testud. "I had to make that volley and I didn't do it. Now, I think, Venus and Lindsay will have a very interesting match. It will come to who takes the opportunities. I think Lindsay will have to serve very well."

(Results, 8C)

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