Lindsay Davenport, who is 6-foot-2 1/2, struggled for

By Bob Greene Associated Press Published:

Lindsay Davenport, who is 6-foot-2 1/2, struggled for 2 1/2 hours to gain a berth in the semifinals.

Martina Hingis is six inches shorter. Her spot opposite Davenport in Friday's semifinal round was clinched in 62 minutes.

While the top half of the draw will have two seeded players _ Hingis is No. 1, Davenport No. 6 _ the other semifinal will send unseeded 17-year-old Venus Williams, playing in her first U.S. Open and only her third Grand Slam tournament, against No. 11 Irina Spirlea, at 23 the oldest of the four.

Davenport solved the wind and third-seeded Jana Novotna 6-2, 4-6, 7-6 (7-5) in Wednesday's marathon, while Hingis quickly dispatched No. 10 Arantxa Sanchez Vicario 6-3, 6-2.

In men's quarterfinal action Wednesday, Britain's Greg Rusedski ousted Richard Krajicek of the Netherlands 7-5, 7-6 (7-5), 7-6 (8-6), and Sweden's Jonas Bjorkman advanced when No. 16 Petr Korda of the Czech Republic retired with flu-like symptoms and general fatigue while trailing 7-6 (7-3), 6-2, 1-0. The two winners will meet in one semifinal on Saturday.

Today, the last two men's quarterfinals were scheduled, with No. 13 Patrick Rafter playing Magnus Larsson of Sweden and, in a night match, No. 2 Michael Chang taking on No. 10 Marcelo Rios.

Both singles finals will be held on Sunday.

Davenport considers herself "just really lucky I got through." She has a point there.

With the wind making every shot an adventure, both Davenport and Novotna made more unforced errors than winners. Actually, Novotna came out the better of the two with 50 winners and 52 unforced errors; Davenport had six more errors than winners.

In the third set alone, Davenport had 19 break points on Novotna's serve, and cashed in on only three. For the match, Davenport lost her serve five times while breaking Novotna's serve six times.

"The way the wind was out there today, you never knew if the lead was safe," Davenport said. "One side of the court, the ball flew. The other side, I didn't know where it was going to go."

The Olympic gold medalist at the Atlanta Games, Davenport whipped through the opening set in 25 minutes and was three points from taking a 5-1 lead in the second. Then things went haywire.

Novotna won four straight games en route to squaring the match at one set apiece. Then both players reached match point in the third set before battling into a decisive tiebreak, which turned into a masterpiece of missed opportunities.

In the 12 points played, serve was held only three times. The last time was when Davenport ripped a forehand cross-court and let out a yip of delight. A place in the semifinals was hers.

"Someone asked me what the turning point was," Davenport said. "I said there wasn't one until the ball went by her at match point.

"So many ups and downs with the wind just playing havoc on the ball. It was difficult to play."

When Hingis and Sanchez Vicario began their match on Arthur Ashe Stadium, it was dark and chilly _ the temperature dropped from 73 to 62 _ but the winds remained. It made no difference to Hingis, who is seeking her third Grand Slam tournament title of the year.

Moving as smoothly as ever, Hingis found every line as she forced Sanchez Vicario, her doubles partner, into a sideline to sideline chase after the ball.

"Arantxa played very different this time because I think the wind was bothering her," Hingis said. "It was very strange. I almost didn't make one mistake. I played nearly faultless.

"It doesn't matter if it's windy because no will remember it was very cold out there if you lose. You just have to play your game (even if) it's a different strategy."

Sanchez Vicario, who won the U.S. Open in 1994, marveled at her opponent's accuracy, especially in the conditions.

"Every time she needs a shot, she hits a line," Sanchez Vicario said.

The first British man to reach the U.S. Open semifinals since Mike Sangster in 1961, Rusedski rode his huge serve to victory. One of his serves was clocked at 142 mph, a U.S. Open record.

"I can't believe I'm in the semis," said Rusedski, who has yet to lose a set. "I guess when I get up and have to play on Saturday, I guess I'll realize I'm there."

Until this year, his fourth trip to the National Tennis Center, Rusedski had never won a match in America's premier tennis tournament.

"It was extremely difficult," he said of the conditions. "It was very windy out there. ... I think I handled the conditions better, made Richard play a few more volleys than he made me play. I got a lot more free points from him."

Korda pulled off the upset of the tournament on Monday, ousting two-time defending champion Pete Sampras in a five-setter that had three tiebreakers. But the sharply hit forehands down the line and snappy cross-court backhands that went in against Sampras sailed long or wide against the Swede.

Still, the left-hander battled in a closely fought first set before things changed drastically.

"I think we both were fighting very hard to win the first set, and even in the beginning of the second set," Bjorkman said. "I think when I held my serve to 5-2, it looked like he all of a sudden started to look a little different in his face."

Korda said he had a sore throat on Tuesday and spent most of Wednesday in bed sweating.

"I didn't want to default," he said. "I was trying to do the best I

could, but I just didn't have the energy and I didn't want to collapse

out there."

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