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Williams Is Taking It Seriously

Serena overpowers teen Golovin at Wimbledon and turns her attention to quarterfinal match with Capriati.

June 30, 2004|Diane Pucin | Times Staff Writer

WIMBLEDON, England — There was not a hint of a smile from Serena Williams. Not when she blasted a 126-mph serve, fastest by a woman in Wimbledon history, past a befuddled Tatiana Golovin. Not when she finished off the first set in 27 minutes by winning 12 of the final 15 points. Not when she won 19 of 21 points in a dominating stretch of the second set.

Not when she patted the shoulder of Golovin, a badly beaten 16-year-old who wasn't given room to maneuver by Williams during her 6-2, 6-1 shellacking of the youngster who was born in Russia, raised in France and trained in Florida. Not even when she did a pirouette, blowing kisses to the Centre Court crowd but displaying not an ounce of enjoyment.

Williams, top-seeded defending champion, isn't fooling around.

Today, Williams will play seventh-seeded Jennifer Capriati in the most anticipated quarterfinal in the women's draw.

Capriati, who beat No. 10 Nadia Petrova of Russia, 6-4, 6-4, in a match featuring lots of power and little finesse, has behaved as a total opposite of Williams. Giggling and savoring extra time on the courts as she signs autographs and enjoys applause, Capriati seems to have found the happiness that often eluded her in the game.

Even Williams has noticed.

"You can really see now that she's happy and she's enjoying herself out there," Williams said. "I never knock anyone for being happy."

There was happiness elsewhere too.

Lindsay Davenport, the 1999 champion, advanced to her fourth Wimbledon semifinal with a ruthless 6-2, 6-2 victory over unseeded 19-year-old Karolina Sprem. Sprem, of Croatia, who had eliminated two-time Wimbledon champion Venus Williams last week, admitted to being awed by Davenport.

"I was feeling, when she was standing on the court, that the court's too small for me," Sprem said. "I didn't have space to play."

It took the fifth-seeded Davenport 18 minutes to win the first set and she never faced a break point on her serve. In Thursday's semifinals, Davenport, 28, will face arriving 17-year-old star Maria Sharapova. Although she was unsteady from her baseline perch, Sharapova, seeded 13th, eventually calmed down enough to beat No. 11 Ai Sugiyama of Japan, 5-7, 7-5, 6-1, and reach her first Grand Slam semifinal.

As a Sugiyama backhand floated lazily wide, the final mistake of a match that Sugiyama once was five points from winning, Sharapova put her hands to her face and yelped.

"I didn't believe it at all," said the 6-foot Russian who has trained in Southern California with Davenport's first coach, Robert Lansdorp. "These things don't happen every day. Especially looking at the first two sets, I was always down. I never thought I could turn it around. But somehow I did."

Davenport and Sharapova get a day of rest today while fourth-seeded Amelie Mauresmo and ninth-seeded Paola Suarez and Williams and Capriati try to catch up and play their quarterfinals. Mauresmo beat 14th-seeded Silvia Farina-Elia of Italy, 7-5, 6-3, and Suarez of Argentina, a surprise French Open semifinalist, beat Italy's Rita Grande, 4-6, 6-0, 6-2.

In the absence of Belgian powers Justine Henin-Hardenne and Kim Clijsters, missing here because of illness and injury, Williams against Capriati has become the women's headline rivalry.

Capriati, 28, trails in the series, 9-6, but she has beaten her 22-year-old nemesis in their last two meetings, most recently, 6-3, 3-6, 6-3, in the quarterfinals of the French Open last month. A year ago here, in the same round, Williams conquered Capriati, 2-6, 6-2, 6-3, in a two-hour display of blazing athletic power devoid of nuance but interesting in its intensity.

"We really are able to contort our bodies and just make the shots," Williams said Tuesday. "Even if we're in the wrong position, we're able to get different balls. You know, just pure athleticism out there."

Cameras clicked nonstop while Golovin and Williams warmed up. Golovin, who has been groomed for stardom for nearly two years by her IMG handlers, has shown up this summer in hip-hugging short-shorts and a cropped top. Williams' one-piece white dress with beige cutouts and a ragged bottom was sedate in comparison.

"I had something really, really super sexy," Williams said of her planned Wimbledon attire, "but they wouldn't let me wear it."

Hard to imagine anything sexier than Golovin's limited attire.

Asked to assess her play, Williams was displeased.

"I didn't think I played well today," she said. "I thought I wasn't moving and I thought I didn't do some things I wanted to."

She brightened only when her fast serve was mentioned.

"I was really excited," she said. "I was like, 'Whoa!' "

The previous women's fast serve at Wimbledon was by Serena's sister, Venus, who hit a 125-mph blazer in 1998. Venus went home last week after her upset loss to Sprem, and Serena said she missed her sister.

"It's kind of stressful," she said. "It's like all the attention is on me now from my mom and my dad. Usually I kind of slack off and let them talk to Venus. Now they're totally focused on me."

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