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Davenport Closes Well, as Does Henin-Hardenne

They snuff out their opponents' chances and reach Indian Wells final with straight-set wins.

March 20, 2004|Lisa Dillman | Times Staff Writer

For Nathalie Dechy, the proverbial window of opportunity opened in the second set against Lindsay Davenport, giving the Frenchwoman three opportunities to get into a third set in the semifinals of the Pacific Life Open on Friday.

For Anastasia Myskina of Russia, the window was smaller. She broke top-seeded Justine Henin-Hardenne of Belgium in the opening game of their semifinal. In the next game, Henin-Hardenne broke back at love.

Window closed. Watch your fingers.

The third-seeded Davenport defeated Dechy, 6-2, 7-6 (4), hitting nine aces, including one on match point. She survived a 0-40 deficit at 5-6 on her serve, preventing the semifinal from going into a third set.

In the night match, Henin-Hardenne had little trouble against No. 4 Myskina, winning, 6-1, 6-1, in 56 minutes.

Myskina, who double faulted seven times, was not able to hold serve until the third game of the second set.

Sunday's final will feature the eighth meeting between Henin-Hardenne and Davenport. Though Davenport leads the series, 5-2, she has not defeated Henin-Hardenne since the semifinals in Zurich in late 2002. Their most recent match was in the quarterfinals of the Australian Open in January, with Henin-Hardenne winning, 7-5, 6-3, en route to the title.

You might say Henin-Hardenne's powers of concentration were tested more in the interview room afterward. Reporters felt a small rumble, which may have been an aftershock from a 3.5 earthquake earlier in the day in the Big Bear area.

Of course, Henin-Hardenne felt nothing.

"I was focused on what I was saying to you," she said, smiling. "That's good, huh? That's very good."

Myskina said she was not really disappointed, and added that she had a painful right shoulder.

Even Henin-Hardenne was surprised by the ease of her victory.

"I never expected that," she said. "I mean, winning, 6-1, 6-1, against Myskina is pretty unusual. She did a lot of mistakes. She was probably a little bit tired also. She had really tough matches this week."

Davenport-Dechy featured more drama. Dechy took time to work her way into it, falling behind, 0-5, in the first 17 minutes. In the second set, Davenport's serve pulled her from the brink of trouble.

"I had chances at 4-3," Dechy said. "I had chances at 5-4, then 6-5. Each time she served unbelievable. I think she made like three aces two times in a row. The only time it wasn't a big serve was when she was 0-40 down, that second serve I missed the return."

Said Davenport of being down 5-6, 0-40: "I feel like I was really lucky to be able to escape with the second set. From that point, I really felt like I ended the match really well. Started to hit the ball better and really cut down on my unforced errors. I was glad to end the match with a bit of momentum there."

Davenport lost in the final to Kim Clijsters, 6-4, 7-5, last year at Indian Wells. She feels her level of play has improved from 2003.

"I'm really happy that I've been able to break through and get to the finals again," said Davenport, who has not lost a set in five matches. "I had a relatively easy draw compared to what players were ranked. I was still able to come through. That's not always easy."

*

(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX)

Pacific Life Open

At Indian Wells Tennis Garden:

MEN'S SEMIFINALS

Today beginning at noon on Stadium Court:

* No. 1 Roger Federer, Switzerland, vs. No. 5 Andre Agassi.

* Head-to-head: Agassi leads, 3-2.

* No. 9 Tim Henman, Britain, vs. Irakli Labadze, Georgia.

This is the first meeting between Henman and Labadze.

SUNDAY'S FINALS

TV: ESPN2

* Women: noon; No. 3 Lindsay Davenport vs. No. 1 Justine Henin-Hardenne, Belgium.

* Head-to-head: Davenport leads, 5-2.

* Men: 2 p.m.

PRIZE MONEY

* Total: $2.1 million.

* Men's breakdown: Winner: $421,600; runner-up: $210,800; semifinalists: $106,240; quarterfinalists: $56,070; round of 16, 29,550; third round: $15,600; second round: $8,050; first round: $4,130.

* Women's breakdown: Winner: $332,000; runner-up: $163,000; semifinalists: $80,000; quarterfinalists: $39,375; round of 16: $19,350; third round: $9,475; second round: $4,650; first round: 2,325.

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