Sampras disposes of Kucera
Venus Williams, Rafter, Davenport advance to semis
Posted: Thursday September 10, 1998 12:46 AM
NEW YORK (AP) -- Venus Williams needed a set to adjust to the wind and cold before turning on her power game. Pete Sampras needed no such warmup period, hitting his first serve of the match at 134 mph.
As spectators huddled beneath blankets, Williams and Sampras overpowered quarterfinal opponents on a chilly Wednesday night in the U.S. Open.
Undermined by repeated errors in the first set, the fifth-seeded Williams overwhelmed No. 4 Arantxa Sanchez-Vicario during the rest of her 2-6, 6-1, 6-1 victory to set up a semifinal match against No. 2 Lindsay Davenport.
The top-seeded Sampras had 13 aces in a 6-3, 7-5, 6-4 victory over No. 9 Karol Kucera, who had eliminated Andre Agassi a day earlier. Sampras will play defending champion Patrick Rafter in the semifinals.
"Considering the conditions, I think I played pretty well. It was really nasty out here, really cold, and I'm just glad to get out of it," Sampras said. "With the conditions tonight, it wasn't fun to play. With the wind gusting in the third set, I couldn't even feel the racket my hands were so cold."
Once Williams adjusted to the wind and cold, she was able to play her game. And there are few players in women's tennis who can handle that kind of power.
Sanchez-Vicario certainly wasn't able to Wednesday night.
"In the first set I was missing a lot, I wasn't patient. I stayed away from my game plan," said Williams, a U.S. Open finalist last year. "I just had to stop missing. I just had to make up my mind that I wasn't going to miss anymore."
Williams began the match wearing a bright yellow hooded sweatshirt, but still seemed bothered by the chilly evening. She was trailing 3-2 and had already lost her serve twice when she stripped to a light-blue tank top.
Williams seemed to lunge for shots the rest of the set, battling the swirling wind as much as her opponent.
But then she decided to become more careful with her shots, and began to turn the match around.
"It was windy. I wasn't hitting my big serves. I just had to spin them in," Williams said. "The errors had to stop or else I was just going to be heading home. There was just no other alternative, no other option available."
After 18 unforced errors and three double faults in the first set, Williams had just 17 unforced errors and two double faults the rest of the match. And, as she regained control of her shots, she was able to turn up the power.
The game of the match came late in the second set. On the 22nd point of the game, Williams finally converted her sixth set point to even the match.
Williams broke Sanchez-Vicario's serve in the first game of the third set, and again in the fifth on a shot the Spaniard thought was going out and watched as it hit the line. Williams closed out the match with yet another break, wrapping up the victory with a backhand down the line.
"She started playing much more aggressive. She started attacking," Sanchez-Vicario said. "I mean, she's a player that hits the ball really hard."
The third-seeded Rafter had 44 winners and only 14 unforced errors in a 6-2, 6-3, 7-5 victory over No. 12 Jonas Bjorkman.
Rafter was far too quick for Bjorkman, who played in long sleeves on a chilly afternoon made even colder by a 24 mph wind. Rafter used his exceptional speed to control the match, running down Bjorkman's passing shots and darting to the net for winning volleys.
The wind turned service tosses into adventures. On one toss, the ball was blown so far away from Rafter that he didn't even attempt to catch it -- instead, letting it bounce and roll toward a ballboy.
Rafter said the conditions were no worse than those in Mount Isa, the Australian town where he grew up playing tennis.
"I've been brought up in the wind, whether it's winter or summer it's very windy conditions," he said. "I've played in that since I'm 10 years old."
Davenport's power was too much for No. 13 Amanda Coetzer in a 6-0, 6-4 quarterfinal victory.
Davenport was consistent, if not spectacular, getting 94 percent of her first serves in during the first set. She never lost her serve in the match, despite struggling with the wind.
"It's tough. When you're with the wind, you can't hit the ball too far or it flies long. On the other side, you have to hit the ball hard," Davenport said. "You never know what's going to happen out there in the wind."
There were two short rain delays during the Davenport-Coetzer match.
"The wind and the delays probably helped me a little bit. I was definitely struggling with the way she was hitting the ball," Coetzer said. "Often the wind is a little bit of an equalizer. And the rain delays gave me a little bit of an opportunity to slow things down, have a chance to speak to my coach."
Coetzer, who at 5-foot-2 is more than a foot shorter than her 6-2 1/2 opponent, said she was intimidated by the power and depth of Davenport's shots.
"It's tennis. There's no requirements to play, no age requirements, no height requirement, no weight requirement. Tennis is tennis," Davenport said. "I can't help it that I'm a lot taller than her and I hit the ball harder."
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