Venus overpowers Sharapova as Henin sees off Serena

Updated: 2007-07-05 08:57
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LONDON - Triple Wimbledon champion Venus Williams had a Fourth of July to remember as she demolished Maria Sharapova 6-1, 6-3 in a brutal fourth round triumph on Wednesday.

But little sister Serena, twice a champion, was unable to make it a family double when she lost the latest episode in her bitter, long-standing rivalry with world number one Justine Henin.

Venus overpowers Sharapova as Henin sees off Serena
Maria Sharapova of Russia returns the ball to Venus Williams of USA during the fourth round of the Wimbledon Tennis Championships in Wimbledon, in south London. Williams won 6-1, 6-3. [AFP]

The Belgian, bidding to win the only Grand Slam title to elude her, clinched an enthralling Centre Court tussle 6-4, 3-6, 6-3 to reach her fifth Wimbledon semi-final and a match-up against French 18th seed Marion Bartoli.

"I'm happy to come through. It was a good fight," said Henin who had demolished Williams on her way to a fourth French Open title in June.

"She serves hard and I was returning well when she was hitting serves at 115mph or 120mph."

Serena, who injured her calf in her win over Daniela Hantuchova in the previous round, said she was nowhere near full fitness.

"I was not 100 percent, I'm about 40-50 percent," said Serena who again had her left leg bandaged.

"I also sprained my thumb in that match so I couldn't hit backhands today."

The former champion confirmed that her father Richard as well as her doctors advised her not to play because of the injuries.

"I hate not to try," she said. "I wanted to try and wanted to fight my way through. I just hoped that adrenaline would kick in.

"Had I been fit, I would have won today."

Venus, the champion in 2000, 2001 and 2005, overpowered the Russian second seed and 2004 winner, and now faces Sharapova's compatriot Svetlana Kuznetsova for a place in the semi-finals.

Sharapova admitted she had been powerless to resist.

"I got off to a slow start and couldn't get any rhythm but I started serving a lot better in the second set," she said.

"But at the end of the day she was averaging 115mph on her first serve and I just could not give myself chances on the return."

Williams's form was in sharp contrast to some erratic displays in the earlier rounds, but she insisted she had always been confident of raising her level when it was required.

"My whole life I've been a big match player," she said.

Sharapova failed to win a single break point, allowed her opponent a huge 19 opportunities and managed to win just two points off the Williams serve in the entire second set.

Henin beat Serena for the seventh time in 11 career meetings.

Williams, the American seventh seed, arrived on court with her left calf still bandaged, a legacy of her controversial, injury-hit win over Daniela Hantuchova in the previous round.

Henin went into the match having lost just 15 games in four matches here and was a set ahead courtesy of a break in the ninth game of the opening set.

But the American bounced back as her seventh ace of the match evened the tie although it needed the reassurance of the Hawkeye system before the game and set was called.

As the light on another rain-affected day on Centre Court got worse, it was Henin who was finishing the stronger, breaking in the second and sixth games to go to 5-1.

Admirably, Williams then called on her famed fighting spirit to thwart Henin's attempt to serve for the match and broke back before holding to trail 3-5.

Williams managed to save one match point when Henin dumped a backhand volley into the net but she then hit long on the second match point to give Henin victory after a 1hr 45min tussle.

Bartoli said she was delighted to be in her first Grand Slam semi-final after seeing off Dutch teenager Michaella Krajicek 3-6, 6-3, 6-2.

"I've been through some big stages already against some big players and in some tough situations," said the 22-year-old Frenchwoman who has lost both her previous matches with Henin including on grass at Eastbourne last month.

"I'm not afraid to play against the big players. It's going to be my first time on Centre Court. I'm very happy to be there for the first time. I will really enjoy that moment."

The other two quarter-finals will be played on Thursday with Ana Ivanovic facing Nicole Vaidisova and Venus Williams facing Kuznetsova.