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Hingis, Williams cruise along


NEW YORK - No. 1 seed Martina Hingis and No. 5 Serena Williams continued on their collision course yesterday at the U.S. Open, and exhibited the confidence of champions when their respective day's work was done.

Williams took to the court in the morning and, after an early challenge from Jelena Dokic, cruised to a 7-6 (9-7), 6-0 victory. In the afternoon, Hingis joined her in the quarterfinals by completing a matter-of-fact dismissal of No. 11 Sandrine Testud, 6-2, 6-1, in a match begun Sunday night.

In separate halves of the draw, the two could meet in Saturday's final.

They were among the lucky few who got to finish their daytime matches. Rain, which has plagued the U.S. Tennis Center for the past eight days, washed out most of the afternoon session.

A much-anticipated afternoon match between No. 4 Pete Sampras and qualifier Hyung-Taik Lee of Korea was interrupted with Sampras up a set and a break and was completed just before the night session. Sampras won, 7-6 (7-4), 6-2, 6-4.

American Todd Martin also moved ahead, as did Richard Krajicek. Martin completed his Sunday match, moving to the fourth round with a 7-6 (7-5), 6-3, 6-2 victory over No. 10 Cedric Pioline. Krajicek advanced to the quarterfinals by beating Dominik Hrbaty, 7-6 (13-11), 6-4, 6-1, and will face Sampras.

In the past year, both Williams sisters have won a Grand Slam. Venus won Wimbledon in July and Serena is the defending champion here. Since Wimbledon, Venus hasn't lost a match, and the only match Serena has lost since losing to Venus at Wimbledon was to Hingis, when she withdrew because of a foot injury.

"I think, for sure, when a lot of people play us, they lift their games," said Serena Williams. "They might play in a way they've never played before, because Venus and I have lifted the bars of tennis. ... Everybody wants to beat a Williams sister now. ... That's just the way it is."

But Hingis, who has played fine, strong tennis here, is No. 1. And listening to her, you get the feeling the Williams sisters are simply a talk show she can tune out when she pleases.

"For me, it's never been about the talk," Hingis said. "It's more always the results which counted. They [Williams sisters] have to make the results. The pressure is all on them."

Hingis gives very little when she talks about the Williamses. Her biggest concession yesterday was to say that they have affected how the way the game is played.

"It used to be you had more time to prepare the shots," Hingis said. "You could mix it up more, do this or that, slow it down, make it faster. Now, you just have to hit every ball pretty much as hard as you can. Even in practice now, you have to be aggressive. There is no more time to play games. "

"I'm still No. 1, though it seems like No. 3. But it is the results that will tell. I feel very comfortable because I know I got a chance to survive. I mean, everybody tries to be in my position. Sometimes you forget about it, but there are a thousand girls on the computer [including the Williams sisters], and they want to be where I am."

And, perhaps, a few thousand more in Sweden - home of No. 3 Magnus Norman - would also like to be in her position.

Norman, the highest remaining men's seed, is Hingis' boyfriend. And over the weekend, he may have been more nervous about facing Hingis than No. 6 Monica Seles is now, as she awaits their quarterfinal match.

You see, Norman combined with Max Mimyi and the rain to play a five-set, four-hour and six-minute match over six hours and 26 minutes Sunday night on the same court Hingis and Testude were scheduled.

It was bad enough that Norman had to fight off four match points before winning, but when he was done, he knew Hingis would be mad because she had to wait so long to play.

"I didn't see her directly after the match," Norman said, "but I knew I'd get [grief] when she got home because she had to play so late."

It was nearly midnight when Hingis got home.

Yesterday, though there were circles under her eyes, she was in a better mood.

"I had to watch it and I was like waiting and waiting," Hingis said. "I wanted him to win. He was down two sets. He fought off four match points. Great win for him, but at 4-all, I had just no more feelings. I was like laying there, watching, 'Come on, get it over.' "

Norman won, 3-6, 4-6, 7-6 (7-5), 6-4, 7-6 (11-9), by the way.

Hingis grinned.

"I think he has a great chance, he's really focused and I know he wants to win this Grand Slam very bad, as everyone else wants to," she said. "But he cut it very close Sunday night, very close."

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