Serena reaches quarters in top form

Updated: June 29, 2004, 1:41 PM ET
Associated Press

WIMBLEDON, England -- Two-time defending champion Serena Williams served 12 aces -- including one clocked at a Wimbledon women's record of 126 mph -- and overwhelmed 16-year-old Tatiana Golovin 6-2, 6-1 on Tuesday to advance to the Wimbledon quarterfinals.

Williams crushed the Russian-born French player in 55 minutes on Centre Court to set up a marquee Grand Slam quarterfinal rematch against Jennifer Capriati.

Capriati, who defeated Nadia Petrova 6-4, 6-4 in another fourth-round match, beat Williams in the quarterfinals of the French Open last month. Now they'll meet in the Wimbledon quarters for the third time in four years.

"I think we definitely have a nice rivalry going on," Williams said. "It's good, I like it."

In the bottom half of the draw, Lindsay Davenport became the first player to reach the semifinals as she swept 19-year-old Karolina Sprem 6-2, 6-2, in 51 minutes.

Davenport, the 1999 champion, reached the semis for the fourth time. Sprem, a Croat who upset former two-time champion Venus Williams in the second round, had 21 unforced errors -- 13 more than Davenport.

"This is my 12th year, and to still be successful and still be at the top of the games, is a huge accomplishment," said the 28-year-old Davenport, who hasn't won a Grand Slam since the Australian Open in 2000.

The fifth-seeded Davenport will face 17-year-old Russian Maria Sharapova, who underlined her reputation as the biggest new star in the game by beating Ai Sugiyama, 5-7, 7-5, 6-1 to make her first Grand Slam semifinal.

"I want to win this tournament -- I want it really bad," Sharapova said.

Sugiyama was five points from winning the match, holding a break point for 5-4 in the second set, before Sharapova turned things around in emphatic fashion. From 1-1 in the third set, Sharapova took four of the next five games at love and won 20 of the last 22 points to close out the match.

"I never thought I could turn it around, but somehow I did," she said.

After Sugiyama's backhand drifted wide on match point, Sharapova threw her arms in the air and blew kisses to the crowd. She finished with 44 winners and nine aces and showed she's not just a baseliner, hitting 10 volley winners and winning 16 points at the net.

Sharapova is the youngest Wimbledon semifinalist since Martina Hingis and Anna Kournikova made it to the final four in 1997 at 16. Hingis beat Kournikova in the semis and won the title that year.

Sharapova, a 6-foot blonde with a modeling contract, has been compared to Kournikova. But while Kournikova has never won a tour singles title, Sharapova has won three, including the Wimbledon warmup tournament in Birmingham, England.

"She has a big game," Davenport said. "I'm a huge fan of her game and how she plays. It's going to be a good matchup. We're both baseliners and we both hit pretty hard."

Also advancing to the quarters in the top half was Amelie Mauresmo, who beat Silvia Farina Elia 7-5, 6-3. The fourth-seeded Frenchwoman, who reached the semifinals here in 2002, served eight aces and had 29 winners to beat the Italian in 1 hour, 27 minutes on Court 2.

Mauresmo will next play Paola Suarez, who downed Rita Grande, 4-6, 6-0, 6-2 to reach her first Wimbledon quarterfinal. Suarez lost in the French Open semis last month to Elena Dementieva.

Serena Williams and Capriati have played 15 times, with Williams leading 9-6. Capriati has won the last two, both on clay, including a three-setter at the French Open. At Wimbledon, Capriati won in three sets in the 2001 quarterfinals and Williams prevailed in three sets in the 2003 quarters.

"We always end up in the same side of the draw, playing each other and having good matches," Capriati said. "She respects my game, I respect hers. We're not best of friends, but we're not enemies either."

The top-seeded Williams, who hasn't lost more than four games in any of her matches so far, wasn't happy with her performance Tuesday, but added: "I guess I can't complain too much, huh?"

Golovin, considered one of the most promising young players on the tour, appeared completely outmatched in her first appearance on the biggest stage in the sport.

Williams hit clean winners from the baseline, but was particularly dominant on her serve. She served three aces in three different games and finished off the fifth game of the second set with her 126 mph ace down the middle. As she walked to her chair for the changeover, Williams held up her arms in triumph and smiled at her parents in the players' box.

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

The serve broke her sister Venus' Wimbledon record of 125 mph, set in 1998. It fell just short of the fastest ever recorded serve in women's tennis -- a 127 mph delivery by Venus, at a tournament in Zurich, Switzerland, in 1998. Serena's previous best was 121 mph.

"I'm feeling like Pete Sampras," she said.

The men's quarterfinals are scheduled for Wednesday, including a matchup between the last two Wimbledon champions, Roger Federer and Lleyton Hewitt. The other pairings: Andy Roddick vs. Sjeng Schalken, Tim Henman vs. Mario Ancic, and Sebastian Grosjean vs. Florian Mayer.

Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press