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Defeat Isn’t No. 1 Concern

Times Staff Writer

Lindsay Davenport could beat Serena Williams in straight sets today and still not make it into the WTA Championships semifinals.

Or she could lose to Williams and still play in Sunday’s semifinals.

Go figure. If you can.

Davenport, who also has a chance to finish the year as the No. 1-ranked player, lost to French Open champion Anastasia Myskina 7-6 (5), 6-4, in her second match of round-robin play Friday night in front of 8,032 at Staples Center.

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There are two groups -- red and black -- of four players each in this season-ending $3 million tournament. Davenport and Myskina are 1-1 in the Red Group; Williams is 2-0. Myskina will play Elena Dementieva (0-2) in today’s second Red Group match.

Williams, Davenport and Myskina could all finish 2-1 and the semifinalists would be decided by number of sets won. Williams already owns the advantage -- she has a 4-1 sets record and if she wins one more even in losing her match to Davenport, Williams will be in the semis. Myskina has won three sets and lost two so far. Davenport’s sets record is 2-2. Or Davenport, Myskina and Dementieva could all finish 1-2 and need the sets tiebreaker to determine the second semifinalist.

“I think it is probably an uphill battle for myself, not knowing all the factors and having not talked to anybody,” Davenport said. “I probably have to win. And the quicker I do it, the better chance I have.”

The Black Group is more clear cut. Wimbledon champion Maria Sharapova and Amelie Mauresmo have both clinched semifinal spots.

Sharapova, 17, won her second straight match here with a 6-4, 7-5 win over fellow Russian Vera Zvonareva Friday. Mauresmo eliminated U.S. Open champion Svetlana Kuznetsova, 6-3, 6-2, in Friday’s final match.

If Davenport is eliminated today, Mauresmo could finish the season ranked No. 1 by winning the championship. Losing that position didn’t seem to concern Davenport after her loss.

“No matter what, if I finish the year No. 2, it has been a great year,” Davenport said. “And if I finish the year No. 1, great. I have been fortunate enough that I have been No. 1 for a number of times. I’m happy I was able to reach [No. 1] in 2004 at any point.”

It was Lindsay Davenport bobblehead night and the crowd was strongly rooting for Davenport, who lives in Laguna Beach.

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In the first set Davenport forced Myskina into saving four break points -- including two at 15-40 in the 11th game -- while Davenport was easily holding service game after service game.

But on the second deuce point in that 11th game, Davenport muffed an easy overhead and seemed to lose confidence in her forehand after that. In the tiebreak, Davenport served her first double fault on the second point and whacked a forehand long on the 11th point to go down 5-6 and give Myskina her first match point, which she won.

Wednesday night Myskina had won the first set against Williams, was up, 3-0, in the second and serving to go ahead, 4-0. She ended up losing the match. In the second set against Davenport, Myskina jumped ahead, 3-0, then lost the next two games.

“Pretty scary moment for me,” Myskina said. “It was a good lesson, the first match. I had a really big chance and I didn’t take it.”

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Myskina, who had never won a set off Davenport until beating her last month in the semifinals of a tournament in Moscow, said she had gained confidence after that win.

“I knew exactly what I have to do against Lindsay,” Myskina said. “And probably that tournament and match gave me more confidence to play against her.”

Myskina never lost her advantage over Davenport in the second set. A second serve that often takes unintended directions for Myskina when she’s feeling pressure tended to stay in the court. The lesson she had learned against Davenport last month was, Myskina said, to keep her taller, stronger but slower opponent moving.

“She got better,” Davenport said. “She was continually going for her shots. When I had some chances, I made some errors.”

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*

(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX)

WTA Championships

Scores are from the first three days of round-robin play. Initials are for players listed at left. Today’s schedule (play begins at 1 p.m. at Staples Center):

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* Lindsay Davenport vs. Serena Williams.

* Amelie Mauresmo vs. Maria Sharapova.

* Anastasia Myskina vs. Elena Dementieva.

*--* RED GROUP Player L.D. A.M. E.D. S.W. RR* W-L** SERENA 4-6, 6-3 6-4 7-6 (3), 7-5 2-0 4-1 WILLIAMS ANASTASIA 7-6 (5), 6-4 6-4, 3-6, 1-1 3-2 MYSKINA 4-6 LINDSAY 6-7 (5), 4-6 6-0, 6-1 1-1 2-2 DAVENPORT ELENA 0-6, 1-6 6-7 (3), 0-2 0-4 DEMENTIEVA 5 -7

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*--*

*--* BLACK GROUP Player A.M. S.K. M.S. V.Z. RR* W-L** MARIA SHARAPOVA 6-1, 6-4 6-4, 7-5 2-0 4-0 AMELIE MAURESMO 6-3, 6-2 6-1, 6-0 2-0 4-0 SVETLANA 3-6, 2-6 1-6, 4-6 6-2, 6-4 1-2 2-4 KUZNETSOVA VERA ZVONAREVA 1-6, 0-6 2-6, 4-6 4-6, 5-7 0-3 0-6

*--*

* -- RR: Round-robin record; ** -- W-L: Sets won-lost.

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Format: Each player plays the others in her group (with one rest day), with the two top players from each group advancing to the knockout semifinals Sunday. The group winners will play the runners-up with the winners advancing to Monday’s final. In the event of a tie, the tiebreaker is sets won and lost.


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