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September 24, 2000
Williams holds off Sanchez in quarters
American Venus Williams survived a stiff challenge from Arantxa Sanchez Vicario of Spain on Sunday to extend her streak to 30 successive match victories with a thrilling three-set triumph in the quarter-finals of the Olympic tournament.
A powerful forehand into the backhand corner clattered off the pugnacious Spaniard's racquet to complete Williams's 3-6 6-2 6-4 victory over Sanchez Vicario, the last player to beat the 20-year-old American.
The win streak, which Williams began after a quarter-finals loss to Sanchez Vicario in the French Open, has carried her to the Wimbledon and U.S. Open titles and within two more wins of Olympic gold.
"I didn't have my best day today," said Williams, who struggled mightily on serve, committing 13 double faults including four that ended games.
"I had to rely on some experience and some guts."
Both players had trouble holding serve in the swirling winds at the Olympic Park Tennis Centre but the level of tennis was top notch.
Williams, who has one of the best serves in women's tennis, failed to hold serve once in the first set, losing all five service games, three of them finishing on double faults.
She began finding the range on her serve in the second set and looked poised to romp to victory in the third before Sanchez Vicario revived.
"Most of the games were pretty close and when I was hitting winners she was still getting some balls back so I had to keep on going," said Williams, who led the third set 4-1 before Sanchez Vicario, one of the great battlers in tennis, made her last charge.
The victory lifted the second-seeded Williams into the semifinals where she will face fellow-American Monica Seles. The third-seeded Seles was a 6-0 6-2 winner against Dominique Van Roost of Belgium in her quarter-final.
The other semifinal will pit unseeded Australian Jelena Dokic against 10th-seeded Russian Elena Dementieva in a battle of teenagers.
Dokic, 17, defeated seventh-seeded South African Amanda Coetzer 6-1 1-6 6-1, while the 18-year-old Dementieva overcame 12th seed Barbara Schett of Austria 2-6 6-2 6-1 in the quarter-finals.
The 28-year-old Sanchez Vicario, in her 14th season on the tennis tour, was at her fighting best against Williams, racing indefatigably from corner to corner to battle the powerful American.
"She served very well at the end," acknowledged Sanchez Vicario. "I gave everything I had. I played my best. Unfortunately, only one can win."
The Spaniard, who won singles and doubles medals in each of the last two Olympics, was only sorry she would not have a chance at adding to her medals haul.
The men's quarter-final match-ups were completed on Sunday as Max Mirnyi of Belarus, German Tommy Haas, Karim Alami of Morocco and Swiss Roger Federer won their third- round matches.
Haas ousted sixth seed Alex Corretja of Spain, who had been the last seed remaining in the top half of the draw, 7-6 (9-7) 6-3. Haas earned a quarter-finals clash with Mirnyi, who powered his way past Mariano Zabaleta of Argentina 7-6 (7-4) 6-2.
Federer overwhelmed Sweden's Mikael Tillstrom 6-1 6-2 to set up a match against Alami, a 6-2 5-7 6-4 winner over Frenchman Fabrice Santoro, who had sent top seed Marat Safin out in the first round.
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