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It's U.S. Women vs. Russians

All must battle issues as Davenport faces Kuznetsova and Capriati plays Dementieva in Open semifinals.

September 10, 2004|Diane Pucin | Times Staff Writer

NEW YORK — These are the issues: Lindsay Davenport's movability; Svetlana Kuznetsova's imperturbability; Elena Dementieva's serves; Jennifer Capriati's nerves.

At stake are berths in the U.S. Open finals for whichever women conquer their issues. Today is women's semifinal day.

A year ago, it was the Americans against the Belgians -- Davenport versus Kim Clijsters and Capriati versus Justine Henin-Hardenne -- and the Belgians won. This year it's Americans against Russians -- Davenport and Kuznetsova, Capriati and Dementieva.

"I hope it's a different outcome," said Davenport, the 28-year-old veteran of 14 Opens and winner of the 1998 title.

For the first time in tennis' open era, which dates to 1968, none of the women seeded in the top four have made the semifinals. At No. 5, Davenport is the most highly rated. On the strength of her four consecutive tournament wins this summer and with the proof of her 22 straight match wins, Davenport is the favorite now.

Henin-Hardenne, the defending champion, said, "Lindsay's my favorite," after the Belgian was upset by Nadia Petrova. Dementieva marveled at Davenport's "great summer" and said Davenport was playing "unbelievable tennis, I think the best tennis she has ever played."

But Dementieva also suggested that Kuznetsova, 19 and seeded ninth, should not be overlooked. "I think Svetlana has a good chance," Dementieva said. "She is a good player; she has a great serve."

The young Russian, who is built compactly and possesses great power with her ground strokes, hasn't lost a set and has made her opponents run. The best way to beat the 6-foot-2 Davenport is to stretch her wide, making her lunge instead of using her smooth stroke.

Davenport has lost only one set in her last 18 matches. Kuznetsova will be in her first Grand Slam event semifinal, Davenport in her 16th. Davenport and Capriati, also 28, can see the ends of their careers and know that opportunities to win major tournaments become rare at this point.

Eighth-seeded Capriati, always a fan favorite at the United States Tennis Center, winner of two Australian Open titles and one French Open, has never reached the U.S. Open finals. In last year's semifinal, Capriati found herself two points from victory 10 times in the three-set match before her nerves deserted her and she lost to a cramping Henin-Hardenne.

But in her controversial quarterfinal match against Serena Williams, where several line calls were made incorrectly against Williams, Capriati played a fierce defensive match by running down shots that seemed irretrievable and pouncing on Williams' mistakes.

"I'm proud of my fighting spirit," Capriati said. "That's why I won."

Dementieva, seeded sixth, has already reached the French Open final this year. She took advantage of the unsteady nerves of second-seeded Amelie Mauresmo in the quarterfinals and won, despite 15 double faults, a strained thigh muscle and an upset stomach. Dementieva's balky serve, which is often measured as slower than 70 mph, often goes away on the 22-year-old in tight situations.

"I know what kind of serve I have," Dementieva said. "I know I'm working on it. I'm serving very good in my practice. I'm not telling you I have a great serve. I'm trying to do better, but it takes some time."

In three previous matches against Capriati, Dementieva has won only one set.

"I need to be focused against Jennifer," Dementieva said, "I need to be aggressive against her. That's it."


Larry Scott, chief executive officer of the WTA Tour, said Thursday that the season-ending WTA Championship would return to Staples Center for 2005. The tour's agreement with Octagon and AEG, which sponsor and run the tournament, had allowed the WTA to move the event after this year.

"We had a lot of interest in the championships from different parts of the world," Scott said, "particularly from China. But looking at all the issues, we decided it made sense not to pursue those at this time. We were pleased with what happened last year with the championships in Los Angeles and we were also very pleased with how AEG and Octagon have developed the women's tournament at the Home Depot Center."



Women's Semifinals

* Today, not before 10:45 a.m., Channel 2.

Svetlana Kuznetsova vs. Lindsay Davenport

*--* Russia Country United States 9 WTA ranking 4 45-16 2004 record 55-6 1 2004 titles 6 3 Career titles 44 $738,467 2004 money $1,329,924


* Head to head: First meeting.


* Today, not before 12:30 p.m., Channel 2

Elena Dementieva vs. JenniferCapriati

*--* Russia Country United States 6 WTA ranking 8 28-16 2004 record 28-10 0 2004 titles 0 3 Career titles 14 $901,288 2004 money $572,874


* Head to head: Capriati leads, 3-0.

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