NEW YORK - One break point had eluded her and Chanda Rubin, getting ready for a second opportunity against Venus Williams late in the third set, didn't want to waste it.
"I thought I could win," Rubin said later. "But I went for a little too much."
Her forehand had missed wide on the first break point that would have put the match on her racket in the next service game. This time, Williams' own big, strong forehand pushed Rubin deep behind the baseline, and when Rubin stretched for another forehand return, it landed in the net.
Rubin physically staggered, demonstrating to everyone watching the match on Arthur Ashe Stadium court that she knew just how big the miss was.
And Williams seemed to grow stronger with each point on Rubin's serve in reaching match point. Once there, she unloaded a forehand shot that just about melted the baseline as it skidded across it for a winner.
The No. 2 seed survived, 6-2, 4-6, 7-5, and advanced to the quarterfinals to meet No. 6 Monica Seles. Seles had an unbelievably easy time against No. 9 Martina Hingis, taking her out, 6-4, 6-2, in 63 minutes. That match completed fourth-round play just before No. 4 Lindsay Davenport moved into the semifinals with a 4-6, 6-0, 6-2 victory over Elena Bovina.
"Certainly, playing Serena is a big challenge for me," said Davenport, who is coming back from knee surgery and playing in her first Grand Slam of the year. "I'm very happy I have two days now to prepare for my match on Friday. If I lose, I could walk away with that, [but] I really don't want to."
The other side of the women's semifinals will be determined today, when No. 3 Jennifer Capriati faces No. 10 Amelie Mauresmo this morning and Venus Williams plays Seles tonight.
The talk about the Williams sisters' level of play did not phase Rubin.
"She almost won this match," said a relieved Williams. "I knew she was going to play well. All she had to do was come out and beat me. I was making so many unforced errors. Sometimes on those slow serves, I just couldn't - they were so slow."
Rubin never cracked 100 mph, content, for the most part, to serve in the 79 mph range. She didn't have one ace. She had only one backhand winner and only 15 winners overall to Williams' 41.
But Rubin, more than a half-foot shorter than the 6-foot-1, two-time defending Open champion and playing on a surgically repaired knee, took the match to three sets and had those two break point chances at 5-5.
"[The Williams sisters] deserve to be where they are," Rubin said. "They've gone out and they've beaten people. If they're in the finals against each other, it's because they've beaten everybody along the way to get there.
"But, if you have the opportunity to play them and you don't win, you don't stop one or the other from getting there, I think it's pointless to then complain about it.
"I think it's pretty sad if you step out onto the court and you feel you can't beat the opponent. Then why go out there? ... If I don't feel that I can beat someone, then [I] have to improve certain things that will make it possible to beat them.
"Everybody has weaknesses; everybody can be beaten. That's just fact."
Rubin worked over Williams' forehand when she needed points, she steadied herself to not get run over by Williams' big first serves, and she let Williams know she was going to keep the pressure on by coming to the net.
But it didn't make Rubin feel any better to know she was the first person in two years at the Open to win a set from Venus Williams. It didn't make her feel any better to know that she had played a strong match.
"I gave myself a chance in the match," she said. "As a competitor you want to go out in every match and do that, give yourself a shot. But it's disappointing not to win it when the chances were there. You look up, you know you're right there for the match. You know the match was right on my racket. ... I just didn't quite measure up as well as I needed to."