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Venus Reaches Zenith Against Testud

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Unflappable, inscrutable and, thus far, unbeatable, unseeded Venus Williams--playing in her first U.S. Open--on Tuesday advanced to the semifinals by defeating Sandrine Testud of France, 7-5, 7-5.

Williams becomes the first woman to reach the semifinals here in her debut since Pam Shriver in 1978. She is the first unseeded semifinalist in 21 years.

The 17-year-old Williams, who previously had not advanced past the quarterfinals of any tournament, will now meet 11th-seeded Irina Spirlea.

Williams needed only 1 hour 37 minutes to defeat yet another higher-ranked and more experienced player: Williams, of Palm Beach Gardens, Fla., is ranked No. 66 and the 25-year-old Testud is ranked No. 17.

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Everyone here with the exception of the poker-faced Williams is either excited or jealous of the brash teenager’s march through the tournament.

“I feel pretty good,” Williams said after the match. “I’ve been playing pretty good.”

Williams was resolute throughout the tense match that captivated a spirited nighttime crowd at the U.S. Tennis Center.

She took the first set and caused Testud to bear down. The Frenchwoman cut down on her unforced errors and improved her first-serve percentage. Testud was ahead 4-1 and two breaks and feeling comfortable.

Williams changed that with aggressive play and put pressure on Testud’s serve.

“The whole match, I couldn’t find the space, I couldn’t find my shots,” Testud said. “She was serving quite good. But, from the baseline, it was not right today. The main problem was with my game, not the opponent.”

Testud admitted to tiring in the draining humidity.

Williams broke Testud to win the match then, after a perfunctory handshake at net, jogged to the players’ box where her mother, Oracene, and sister, Serena, joined the crowd in wild applause. The 6-foot-2 Williams did a chin-up and pecked her mother on the cheek.

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* Greg Rusedski vs. Richard Krajicek

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