Serena: We both want to win
MELBOURNE, Australia -- Serena Williams and Lindsay Davenport both know how it feels to be on top of the tennis world, winning Grand Slam titles and being ranked No. 1.
They also know the frustrations of injuries and inconsistency; Davenport even spoke seriously about retiring last season.
Now, after both were on the brink of elimination in the Australian Open semifinals, one of them will leave Melbourne Park with the title.
"We both want to win so bad," Williams said Friday. "I want to hold up the trophy."
For Williams, it would be a seventh Grand Slam singles title, her first since Wimbledon in 2003 -- when she ended her run of five championships in six majors.
Her win here in 2003 gave her a run of four consecutive major titles.
"It's a different feeling now," she said. "At that point, I really wanted to win four in a row. I don't want it to stop here."
She's never doubted her place in tennis, and shrugged off criticism that she and sister Venus are in decline with an angry response outlining the injuries they've endured and the emotional upheaval caused by the shooting death of another sister in September 2003.
"We're not declining. I don't have to win this tournament to prove anything," she said. "I know that I'm one of the best players out here."
That was before her semifinal victory against Maria Sharapova, when she saved three match points and twice broke serve when the fourth-ranked Sharapova tried to close out the match.
Williams apparently decided as she plucked her racket strings, trying to figure out how to correct a backfiring forehand against Sharapova, that the only way to silence critics was by winning.
"Those are always the best wins, when you're down match point, because you realize that you can't give up," Williams said. She saved match points against Kim Clijsters in the semifinal here two years ago before advancing and beating Venus in the final.
The 2-6, 7-5, 8-6 semifinal victory against Sharapova was more than just revenge against the 17-year-old Russian, who ended Williams' 20-match winning streak at Wimbledon with a straight sets win in the final and later defeated her again at the WTA Championships.
"Honestly, I feel like I need every match," she said. "I definitely think it was a good win for me. But I don't think I would go back and be like, 'Oh, I played so awesome. I won this.' I really think there's so much I can do to improve."
She's on a 13-match winning streak at Melbourne. She skipped her title defense in 2004 because of a knee injury.
Davenport, 28, announced at Wimbledon last year that she'd probably retire after the U.S. Open.
She changed her mind after surging up the rankings to No. 1, reaching the semifinals at Wimbledon and the U.S. Open.
But she did it without winning a major -- her last was here in 2000 -- and in the absence of injured Belgians Justine Henin-Hardenne and Clijsters, and with the Williams sisters spending periods out with injuries.
Like Williams, Davenport said she hasn't yet played her best tennis in Melbourne. She rallied from a set and 4-1 down in the tiebreaker to beat 19th-seeded Nathalie Dechy 2-6, 7-6 (5), 6-4 in the semifinals.
She'd spent more than four hours on court the previous day qualifying for the singles semifinals and the doubles final, and it showed in her energy level.
Davenport is "a little perplexed" by her run to the final, because her preparation also was hampered by bronchitis and a sore knee.
"At the U.S. Open, I could have told you everything was going my way. Here I feel like a lot of things haven't gone my way, except winning the matches," she said. "Yet here I am" in the final.
"I'm ecstatic that I get another chance to win one," she said. "It's been almost five years ... I'm ready."
In the doubles final Friday, Svetlana Kuznetsova and Alicia Molik beat Davenport and Corina Morariu 6-3, 6-4.
Williams has beaten Davenport eight of the 12 times they've played -- Williams got another win by walkover. But Davenport won both their meetings in 2004.
"The last match, I just gave it away," said Williams. "I literally just handed it to her and she said, 'Thank you. I'll take it.'
"The time before, she just beat the daylights out of me."
Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press