June 28, 2005

Venus downs Pierce to book semi spot

By Clare Lovell

LONDON (Reuters) - A pounding serve, the fast grass and afragile opponent made all the difference to Venus Williams inher 6-0 7-6 defeat of Mary Pierce in the Wimbledonquarter-finals Tuesday.

After the 21-minute first set it looked as though the twiceformer champion's progress into the last four would be a mereformality.

The 30-year-old Pierce was seeded 12th, two places aboveWilliams but there the superiority ended.

Williams, sending down 180 kph (114 mph) serves andthumping the lines with her two-handed backhand, made mincemeatof the Canadian-born Frenchwoman.

Sighing, shaking her head and sending pleading glancestoward her family and supporters in the stands, Pierce lookedas though she would submit as tamely as she had at the FrenchOpen final earlier this month when she managed to win only twogames against Justine Henin-Hardenne.


Tuesday, the second game of the second set proved a turningpoint, however. Pierce went 40-0 up only to lose the advantagebut scrambled and struggled through successive deuces andeventually won her first game to an enormous cheer from thepacked Center Court crowd.

The stately Pierce, winner of grand slams in France in 2000and Australia in 1995, then finally found her range.

She clattered backhands down the line, stopped dumpingdouble faults into the net and ignored the swirling wind thathad upset her earlier.

Williams, 25, who like Pierce has enjoyed something of arevival this year after injury and loss of form, needed all herathletic reach and power to stay with Frenchwoman.

"She was hitting winners out of nowhere," Williams saidbreathlessly as she came off the court, adding she used her ownexperience to see her through. "I've been there many timesbefore," she beamed.

Venus, carrying the Williams flag alone in the second weekafter sister Serena was knocked last Saturday, had to save fiveset points in a gripping tiebreak.

She jumped in delight after winning 12-10 on her serve whenPierce put a backhand long.

Williams, who appeared in the first four Wimbledon finalsof the century winning the first two and losing the next coupleto her sister, meets last year's winner Maria Sharapova in thesemi-finals Thursday.