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Davernport, Venus try to regain title

6/29/2005

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."