Hingis awaits 1st sister act


WIMBLEDON, England - Tall, talented and terrific, the Williams sisters are the tennis version of twin towers.

And they're likely all that stand between Martina Hingis and a Wimbledon final.

The most enticing portion of the women's draw came alive yesterday as the Williams sisters and Hingis advanced inexorably to a potential two-round showdown.

"Definitely, they're not easy," No. 1 Hingis said after routing No. 11 Anke Huber, 6-1, 6-2. "But anything is possible."

Today's quarterfinals promise knock-down, drag-out tennis, with Hingis meeting No. 5 Venus Williams, a 6-4, 6-4 winner over Sabine Appelmans.

Is Venus Williams scared of Hingis?

"No," she said.

Why not?

"Why should I be?"

Hingis is the world No. 1.

"So what."

And this is just the quarterfinals.

Waiting in the wings in the semifinals could be No. 8 Serena Williams, who routed Tamarine Tanasugarn, 6-1, 6-1. In the quarterfinals, Serena Williams faces Lisa Raymond, a 6-4, 6-2, winner over Olga Barabanschikova.

"I'm really serious about doing well here," Serena Williams said. "If that's what it takes to have your game face on the whole time, that's what I'm trying to do. I don't want to come all this way to get only so far. I'm really ready to go all the way now."

She just might get there. Or maybe her sister will.

Or, perhaps, the survivor at the top of the draw will be Hingis, who hasn't beaten both sisters in the same tournament. At the 1999 U.S. Open, Hingis got by Venus in the semifinals, but lost to Serena in the final.

Usually, Hingis meets them without a day of rest. Here, she's hoping that an off day between the quarterfinals and semifinals could make the difference.

Hingis admitted that the Williams sisters have forced her to make improvements in her game and conditioning.

"They came with a new game into women's tennis, a lot more power, a lot more physical abilities," Hingis said. "Everybody had to improve on their physical abilities ... just work out more, hit the ball harder basically."

The sisters keep getting stronger. And, in Serena Williams' case, taller. She's 5 feet 10, at least an inch taller than she was at last year's U.S. Open.

"I think when Venus and I came on the tour, a lot of people went back in the gym, started getting more physically fit, started trying to hit harder," Serena Williams said. "Everyone's serve went up, everyone's game actually improved. That's the bottom line."

In the bottom half of the draw, American tennis present and past met, as Lindsay Davenport routed Jennifer Capriati, 6-3, 6-3. Two old rivals, Monica Seles and Arantxa Sanchez-Vicario dredged up some vintage shots with Seles winning, 6-3, 6-4.

Davenport-Seles may not have the buzz as in past years. But it's a match filled with promise. Davenport, out to retain her title, has gotten stronger in every round. Seles has played with uncharacteristic fire in pursuit of winning the only Grand Slam to elude her.

Unseeded Jelena Dokic continued her run of beating unseeded players, routing Kristina Brandi, 6-1, 6-3. In the quarterfinals, she'll meet another unseeded player, Magui Serna, who defeated Lilia Osterloh, 7-6 (7-1), 6-3.

"There are a few holes in the draw, it happens sometimes," said Dokic, who has used her tennis to overshadow her father Damir's earlier antics of being escorted from the grounds after he smashed a television reporter's mobile phone.

"I think I have a really good chance," said Dokic, who beat Hingis en route to last year's quarterfinals. "If I play like I have been and stay confident, I can get to the semifinals."

For American tennis, the Fourth of July women's quarterfinals don't get much better than this, with the Williams sisters, Davenport, Seles and Raymond, emerging as a fabulous five.

Seles said the American assault is taking place because all were brought up hitting hard shots on hard courts.

But Serena Williams has another theory.

"Maybe it's McDonald's," she said.

Any particular meal?

"Definitely, their cheeseburgers," she said.

Feature matches

(Seeds in parentheses)

Today's women's singles

Martina Hingis (1) vs. Venus Williams (5)

Lindsay Davenport (2) vs. Monica Seles (6)

Serena Williams (8) vs. Lisa Raymond

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