If there was any dispute, any question, that the Jennifer Capriati-Lindsay Davenport semifinal was hitting a rarefied level of intensity, that uncertainty disappeared in the second set on Friday night.
Neither was giving an inch.
Capriati managed to expand that definition beyond forehands and backhands. She argued about a line call, vehemently with the chair umpire in the fifth game of the second set, to no avail.
Davenport didn't look happy either, as her unforced errors crept over the twenty-something mark in the second set alone. It might have been interesting to be able to read lips on this night.
Certainly, the implications were important for these two players who are winding their way through something of a jagged comeback road. They were even after two sets in the night semifinal at the Pacific Life Open at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden.
Davenport and Capriati were tied 3-3 in the third set, as they exchanged service breaks to get back on serve. Capriati was broken at 15, and Davenport was broken at love to make it 3-3.
And, later, if there wasn't enough drama -- Capriati added some more when she left the court to receive treatment for an injury late in the match. She appeared to injure her left hip and thigh at 4-4, and lost her serve at love. On the changeover, she called for the tour trainer and left the court. Davenport, who had been getting ready to serve for the match at 5-4, remained in her chair on the sideline, attempting to stay warm.
The fourth-seeded Davenport managed to hold it together after the injury timeout and held serve, beating No. 2 Capriati, 6-4, 4-6, 6-4, in 2 hours and 1 minute. Davenport had 59 unforced error and 50 winners.
Waiting in the final is top-seeded Kim Clijsters of Belgium. Clijsters had little trouble against Conchita Martinez of Spain in the afternoon semifinal, winning, 6-3, 6-2. It will be her fourth final of 2003, as she was the winner in Sydney (beating Davenport in straight sets) and the runner-up in Antwerp and Scottsdale.
Though Clijsters was 1-1 against Martinez before Friday, they had not played since 2000. They are separated by 11 years, as Martinez is 30, and Clijsters was asked how old she was when Martinez won Wimbledon in 1994.
"I was nine or I was 11," she said, laughing.
There was little doubt about the outcome even though Martinez has had an impressive resurgence here this week.
"She's got so much experience," Clijsters said. "That's the way she's turned around a lot of matches in her career.
"And I knew that I had to stay focused and just focus on myself. Whenever she was taking more time or waiting to get another ball or taking a timeout, I knew I just had to focus on myself and not make easy mistakes like I did in the first three points. I had to rally and choose the right ball to finish it off."
There was so little to say about the contest that Clijsters spent more time talking about her superstitions, her food habits and her health habits. She even took on the eating habits of her boyfriend, No. 1-ranked Lleyton Hewitt, even though she misspoke about his nationality.
"He likes his hot dogs and hamburgers," she said. "I think he's a pretty average American person."
Australian born. American diet.
Clijsters was at her diplomatic best when asked about playing Davenport or Capriati.
"It's always nice to play players that you haven't played for a while," she said. "It gets a bit boring if you play them every week and stuff. But, no, I would like to play Jennifer again. But I would like to play Lindsay too. Maybe I can play them both."