Williams wins, Norman loses at Wimbledon

Tuesday, September 5th 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

NEW YORK (AP) — Venus Williams had her closest call of the U.S. Open on Tuesday before recovering to defeat Nathalie Tauziat 6-4, 1-6, 6-1 and extend her winning streak to 24 matches, longest of the season.

Williams, seeded No. 3, trailed in the first set before rallying and then was set back on her heels by Tauziat in the second. She seemed sluggish and the No. 8 Tauziat took advantage, slashing shots to even the match.

It was the first set Venus lost at the Open and it seemed to serve as a wakeup call for the older Williams sister. She came out blistering in the third set. With her father and coach, Richard, watching from a front row seat, she put some zip back in her game and took out Tauziat.

That sent Williams into the semifinals of the Open and kept her on target for a potential championship showdown with her sister, defending champion Serena Williams.

``I was a little bit upset, but I managed to get through,'' she said. ``I guess I didn't play up to par. I don't feel I had my best performance to say the least. In the end, the win is on the record. I move forward.''

Tauziat thought she had exposed Williams a bit, that she may be vulnerable.

``I think if she (is to) win the tournament, she needs to improve her level,'' she said. ``I don't think she is going to win if she plays like this.''

When they seeded the U.S. Open, the first thing that jumped off the page was the women's side where, with a few breaks — service and otherwise — along the way, the Williams sisters could find themselves in the championship match.

So far, so good.

Both sisters reached the quarterfinals, each surviving a scare along the way, and each still in position to create some tennis history.

Both came through a tiebreaker set against an unseeded opponent and then ran off with a second set, sort of a statement for their ability to recover from adversity.

Venus ran into trouble with Meghann Shaughnessy, forced to a tiebreaker in the first set which she won 7-3. The second set was a 6-1 waltz.

Serena had to fight off three break points in a tiebreaker against Jelena Dokic, eventually winning 9-7. The second set was 6-0.

The similarities have been striking.

The sisters played in the semifinals at Wimbledon, an emotional match which Venus won 6-2, 7-6. They were both grim as they left the court that day, in stark contrast to the celebration they shared when Venus defeated Lindsay Davenport to win the tournament.

That gave each of them one Grand Slam championship and now, in the second week of the U.S. Open, the very real possibility of playing each other for a second one.

To get there, though, Serena will have to beat the No. 2 Davenport in the quarters and either No. 10 Anke Huber or Elena Dementieva in the semis. Venus' semifinal opponent will be either No. 1 Martina Hingis or No. 6 Monica Seles who were set to play Tuesday night.

Earlier Tuesday, Magnus Norman, at No. 3 the highest ranked player remaining in the U.S. Open, was knocked out of the tournament by No. 14 Nicolas Kiefer 6-2, 6-7 (3), 6-1, 6-3 in a match that lasted three hours.

His loss left No. 4 Pete Sampras as the highest seed remaining on the men's side of the Open draw. No. 1 Andre Agassi and No. 2 Gustavo Kuerten were eliminated in the first three days of the season's final Grand Slam.

Norman had courted trouble two days ago when he dropped the first two sets but battled back to defeat Max Mirnyi in a marathon, rain-delayed match that went from day to night at the National Tennis Center.

He seemed drained from that battle for survival when he avoided four match points and never was able to get any edge against Kiefer, who overcame a windy, cool day and advanced to the quarterfinals.

After losing the first set, Norman managed to win the tiebreaker in the second. But Kiefer dominated after that, taking advantage of 59 unforced errors that kept Norman in constant trouble.

It was a disappointing ending for Norman, who could have taken over the No. 1 spot in the ATP Champions Race by reaching the semifinals. Enjoying the finest year of his career, he came to the Open with 58 wins this year, more than any other player on the Tour.

Kiefer seemed unimpressed. The German, who has never lost a round of 16 match in a Grand Slam tournament, took charge quickly. It was a reminder of the way he played at the start of the year, when he won 14 of his first 17 matches, all on hard courts.

During that run, he reached the quarters of the Australian Open. Now he's back in another Grand Slam quarterfinal, again on hard courts.

Next for Kiefer is the winner of the match between No. 6 Marat Safin and No. 12 Juan Carlos Ferrero, practice partners who were set to play later Tuesday.