Davernport, Venus try to regain title
LONDON -- Former champions Lindsay Davenport and Venus Williams will be out to restore American domination at Wimbledon when they come face-to-face with European rivals in the semifinals Thursday.
Russian Maria Sharapova, who has already shown her fierce desire to retain the title she won last year, takes on Venus, while Davenport will be determined to preserve her impressive record against France's Amelie Mauresmo.
For five straight years from 1999, either the Davenport or the Williams name was engraved on the Venus Rosewater Dish.
While Davenport triumphed in 1999, Venus succeeded her as champion for two years before losing the 2002 and 2003 finals to her younger sister Serena.
It took a 17-year-old girl from Russia to end that run, and Sharapova will be hell bent on proving that her fairy-tale run to the title 12 months ago was no fluke when she takes on Venus.
"She is a great fighter so every time we play we always have really tough matches," second-seeded Sharapova said.
"I just have to go out and battle it out and see who can come out and win the fight."
Sharapova, who has yet to drop a set at this year's championships, holds a 2-0 advantage in career meetings over her more experienced American rival.
Venus, reduced to the 14th seeding after a spell of unremarkable results, was characteristically relaxed.
"I feel like I deserve to be in the semifinal and I'll just take it from here," the 25-year-old said.
Venus's has reached the last four of a Grand Slam for the first time since Wimbledon 2003, and her record at that stage is good with four wins out of four semifinals at the All England Club.
In the other half of the draw, Mauresmo is hoping her luck holds out when she contests her third Wimbledon semi.
After failing to steer past Serena on both of her previous journeys into the last four, the talented Frenchwoman will be attempting to overturn a sequence of seven defeats against Davenport.
"I've already played two semis the last two times I came here [and] I'll try to make it one step further this year," said the Frenchwoman ahead of her duel with the top seed.
Although Mauresmo is the only one of the quartet who does not have a Wimbledon trophy displayed on her mantelpiece, she has proved to be the most dominant competitor among them.
The third seed has ruthlessly sliced through the draw without losing a set and dropping a measly 22 games in her five matches.
Prowling the court with effortless ease, Mauresmo's serve and volley tactics have left opponents such as Anastasia Myskina dazed and confused.
But while there is no doubting Mauresmo's artistry, her nerves have often let her down on the big occasions and Davenport will be looking to exploit that weakness.
"I hope her nerves definitely come into play," laughed Davenport.
"Besides the fact that I'm going to play her, I do believe in her and I do believe that she is good enough and strong enough to one day come through these situations.
"I just hope it's not on Thursday."