Capriati fails to challenge Serena

Updated: July 1, 2004, 1:37 AM ET
Associated Press

WIMBLEDON, England -- Consider Serena Williams back, good as ever. Hey, she does.

Her body's pain-free, her mind's at ease, her strokes sting, her serves zing.

Finally facing what was billed as a true test, Williams downright dominated Jennifer Capriati 6-1, 6-1 Wednesday to reach a Grand Slam semifinal for the first time since winning her second straight Wimbledon title last year.

"It's been a really hard 12 months for me," Williams said. "I'm feeling really good for the first time since I've been back. And so that's what I'm most excited about."

That's bad news for her next opponent, No. 4 Amelie Mauresmo, who reached her second Wimbledon semifinal by beating No. 9 Paola Suarez 6-0, 5-7, 6-1. Thursday's other semifinal is No. 5 Lindsay Davenport vs. No. 13 Maria Sharapova.

Davenport, the 1999 Wimbledon champion, and Williams are the only remaining players to have won a major title. Williams is bidding to become just the third woman in 35 years to claim three straight championships at the All England Club.

"It's been something on my mind since the beginning of the tournament," said Williams, who hasn't lost a set, dropping only 17 games through five matches.

Her first four matches came against unseeded players, and three-time Slam champion Capriati might as well have been.

"I don't think I really had much of a chance to get into the match and play. I was just feeling so much pressure from her coming off the baseline, the serve," No. 7 Capriati said. "Her game plan was to tee off on everything, and she was on."

It's been a while since Williams was at the top of her game; she slid from No. 1 to No. 10 in the rankings.

She had left knee surgery Aug. 1, less than a month after beating her sister Venus in the final at the All England Club. Then, in September, their half-sister Yetunde was shot to death. Some have wondered whether Serena should devote less time to her nascent acting career and fashion designing. And there are questions about how good she and Venus could be if they sought outside coaching, instead of relying on their parents.

All appears right in Serena's world these days, though.

"I'm bending for balls, and I'm not having any pain," she said. "I'm running without having any doubt in my mind. So that's been a real big plus for me, not only mentally, but physically, as well."

Williams returned to the tour in March, winning her first tournament. But since then, she had gone 10-3, failing to reach a semifinal anywhere, until now. Two of those losses were to Capriati, including at the French Open.

"Everyone, at some point in their career, is beatable," Williams said. "It's just a matter of staying humble."

Entering Wednesday, she held a 9-6 edge over Capriati, with 11 matches going three sets. All five at majors had gone the distance, but this time Williams needed just 45 minutes to put Capriati away.

And she took control early. At 1-1, Williams earned five break points, wearing Capriati down with brilliant returns until she double-faulted to cede the game.

There was a glimmer of hope in the second set for Capriati, though. Williams double-faulted twice in a row -- she had two double-faults all tournament to that point -- to allow Capriati to pull within 2-1.

Williams threw her head back and rolled her eyes.

Plenty of players would have a hard time getting past those miscues. Not Williams.

No nerves, not a shred of shrinking confidence.

She immediately ended what little suspense there was by winning eight straight points to make it 4-1.

"I try not to doubt myself when I'm on the court at all," said Williams, who raised her tournament ace total to 36 by hitting three and served at up to 119 mph.

Capriati, in contrast, complained that she was bothered by the media's attention on their rivalry.

"It's very hard to just go out there and completely focus on tennis. I can't walk around with earplugs in," she said. "Maybe if you wouldn't talk about it so much, it would have been a better match."

That's doubtful, given how well Williams played, and what little fight Capriati showed. Plus, this is Wimbledon, where Williams has won 19 straight matches. Her forceful strokes get some extra oomph on the grass, where balls skid instead of bounce, giving foes less time to get to the right spot.

"It's pretty tough to play against Serena, because in one or two shots, it's done," Mauresmo said, snapping her fingers, "especially on that surface. You have to be very focused and ready from the first shot to handle her game."

Capriati certainly wasn't.

Andy Roddick, who beat Sjeng Schalken 7-6 (4), 7-6 (9), 6-3 to reach the semifinals, was asked if he watched Williams-Capriati.

"No. I was in the bathroom," he said. "I came out, and it was done."


Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press

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