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Williams Overcomes Slow Start to Beat Testud

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TIMES STAFF WRITER

What sort of a review does 19-year-old Venus Williams give herself after three Grand Slam events in 1999?

“At the Australian Open,” she said, “I shouldn’t have been there. I should have been at home training. At the French Open, I didn’t take it seriously. At Wimbledon, I made some bad decisions and was eventually dethroned.”

Let’s back up a bit to the land Down Under.

“I wasn’t playing tennis [there],” Williams said. “I might as well have been playing bowling or soccer. Anything but tennis.”

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That’s where she lost to Lindsay Davenport in the quarterfinals. Every player has a nemesis, and for Williams that player has been the top-ranked Davenport. In nine matches, Williams has recorded only one victory against her.

She will get an opportunity for a reversal of fortune today in the semifinals of the TIG Tennis Classic at La Costa Resort and Spa. After struggling early, the fourth-seeded Williams won 11 straight games against Sandrine Testud of France in the quarterfinals Friday. She erased a 5-1 deficit and won, 7-5, 6-1, in 70 minutes.

Williams will play the top-seeded Davenport of Newport Beach. Davenport defeated hard-hitting Anke Huber of Germany, 7-5, 7-5, in the quarterfinals, serving 12 aces. Davenport has won 13 consecutive matches.

“[Davenport] had a lot of wins against me when I first started on the tour,” Williams said. “I’m never able to play well against her. That has to change at some point in my career, tomorrow would probably be the best time.”

Davenport has not lost a set to Williams in their last four matches, including the final at Palo Alto on Sunday. “It’s going to be difficult,” Davenport said. “I’m sure she’ll be probably even more fired up to beat me now. . . . I like playing her. I think I’ve figured out her game a little bit. My game matches up well against her. If you hit the ball hard and deep, she doesn’t have a lot of time to step in and hit her shots.”

Second-seeded Martina Hingis of Switzerland faces seventh-seeded Amanda Coetzer of South Africa in the other semifinal. Coetzer reached her second semifinal in as many tournaments, defeating Amy Frazier, 7-5, 6-1, on Friday. Frazier double-faulted eight times.

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Williams looked like she was on her way to joining Frazier after losing five of the first six games. Testud was playing aggressively, but Williams wasn’t playing her normal powerful game.

“[It was] extremely terrible, but I couldn’t stop myself from making unforced errors, like a bad day in practice,” Williams said. “You can’t have a bad day of practice in a match.

“I told myself I was going to move the ball around more. I was on the run, making the errors. I figured if I was running, I was going to give her the same treatment.”

Testud never got close to reaching set point. Later, she grew increasingly frustrated after missing three chances in the 12th game of the first set to send it to a tiebreaker. Up 40-0 and serving, she hit a backhand wide, a backhand into the net and a forehand long.

Williams put on a dazzling display in the second set, losing only two points on her serve, both on double faults. She casually flicked winners from the baseline, pounded a few volleys and even pulled out a couple of drop shots.

“I got very comfortable, I was trying some shots for my next match,” she said.

But Williams does not see herself doing one thing.

“I’m not sure if I’ll ever be a serve-and-volleyer,” she said. “Probably because I’m lazy. I don’t like to run to the net after every serve. It seems like a lot of work.”

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Friday’s match was one in which she made it all look quite simple--at least after the first six games.

“That’s what my dad [Richard] said, ‘That tennis comes too easy for you,’ ” Williams said. “It seems to me like I work extremely hard, so I don’t know what he’s talking about. He sees things I can’t see right now.”

Tennis Notes

Monica Seles has withdrawn from her last two tournaments because of an arm injury, so it really was not much of a surprise that the fifth-ranked player also pulled out of next week’s Acura Classic at Manhattan Beach. She has been suffering from tendinitis and has not played since the Fed Cup match against Italy in July.

TIG Tennis Classic

TODAY’S SEMIFINALS

at La Costa Resort & Spa, Carlsbad, Calif.

* 1 p.m.--Lindsay Davenport (1) vs. Venus Williams (4)

* 7 p.m.--Amanda Coetzer (7) vs. Martina Hingis (2)

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