Mauresmo's path toward No. 1 clearer
LOS ANGELES -- Lindsay Davenport rallied for a 3-6, 7-5, 6-1 victory over Serena Williams in the WTA Championships on Saturday, although her No. 1 ranking was in jeopardy after she failed to reach the semifinals.
Davenport owns a 351-point lead over No. 2 Amelie Mauresmo, who could regain the top spot she held for five weeks after the U.S. Open if she wins the tournament.
Mauresmo defeated Wimbledon champion Maria Sharapova 7-5, 6-4 to extend her 11-match winning streak, including titles in Austria and Philadelphia the last two weeks.
Davenport was knocked out when French Open champion Anastasia Myskina beat Elena Dementieva 6-3, 6-3. Myskina and Sharapova were the only two of five Russians in the eight-woman tournament to advance.
Davenport and Myskina finished round-robin play in the Red Group with 2-1 match records. The deciding factor was Myskina's 5-2 record in sets won; Davenport was 4-3.
"I was thinking if I play my best, I can win," Myskina said. "I had a really clear picture -- either I go home or I stay here for the semifinals."
Mauresmo and Sharapova advanced to the semifinals out of the Black Group. Mauresmo had a 3-0 record; Sharapova was 2-1. Dementieva finished 0-3 in the Red Group.
"It's kind of a shame to finish this year by losing three matches in the championships," she said. "I was kind of slow and tired."
In Sunday's semifinals, Mauresmo will play Williams and Myskina takes on Sharapova.
Mauresmo and Sharapova were playing for the first time.
"The match wasn't the best ever played," Mauresmo said. "It was very difficult for both of us to stay focused because we have both qualified."
Sharapova hit 35 winners to Mauresmo's 19, but the 17-year-old Russian also committed 35 errors in losing for the first time in three matches.
"I was a little tired from Friday night. I didn't have enough time to rest," Sharapova said. "It was sort of a practice match; I sort of enjoyed myself. She's very consistent. She knows more what she has to do to win and that comes from experience."
Despite her loss, Williams advanced with a 2-1 match record in the Red Group.
"I feel like I'm cheating that I'm still in the tournament. I feel as though I should go home," said Williams, who fired 14 aces.
Davenport, who won a Tour-best seven titles this year, sensed her season was over even before Myskina and Dementieva played.
"It was a great, great year," she said.
A year ago, Mauresmo was in the same position as Davenport. The Frenchwoman was at her hotel watching the final day of round-robin competition and packing to go home. But Dementieva defeated Chanda Rubin in three sets, giving Mauresmo a semifinal berth.
"It was a pretty strange way," Mauresmo said.
Davenport seemed poised for a quick exit in the first set against Williams, who broke her twice and closed it out with a 109-mph ace in front of 8,231 at Staples Center.
There were just three break points -- all on Williams' serve -- in the second set. Williams twice bailed herself out with aces to get to deuce, including the last game. But after blowing a 113-mph serve past Davenport, Williams double-faulted and then netted a forehand to lose the set, 7-5. She angrily bounced her racket.
"She wasn't tough to play. I shot myself in the foot," Williams said. "I definitely won that match."
Not quite, Serena. Davenport rolled to a 3-0 lead in the third set, then broke Williams a second time on a double fault to go up 5-1. Davenport survived two break points in the last game, then won when Williams netted a forehand volley.
Williams used a derogatory term to describe her play. "I couldn't put it into any other words," she said. "I would, but I am a Christian woman."
Davenport burst out laughing at the suggestion that Williams let down to help her advance.
"I would be lying on the floor if she said, 'I gave Lindsay a bone and tried to help her qualify,'" Davenport said. "She's great and I get along with her, but I don't think her mind works in a way that she was trying to help me out."
Davenport improved to 5-0 against Serena and Venus Williams this year after not beating either of the sisters the previous four years. She earned $130,000, and moved into third on the career earnings list behind Steffi Graf and Martina Navratilova with $18,461,641.
U.S. Open champion Svetlana Kuznetsova and Vera Zvonareva, the other Black Group members, were eliminated Friday. Kuznetsova finished third with a 1-2 record and earned $130,000. Zvonareva was 0-3 and earned $100,000.
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