Venus Williams Takes On Open

Monday, August 28th 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

NEW YORK (AP) — The numbers add up for Venus Williams.

Seven more victories would run her consecutive match winning streak to 26, give her her fifth consecutive title and her second straight Grand Slam tournament victory.

Of course, that would mean her younger sister Serena would be dethroned as U.S. Open women's singles champion.

``Venus is playing very well,'' said Monica Seles, who lost to Williams the Elder in the Pen Pilot final on Saturday. ``Her serve is very strong and physically she gets back a lot of balls, so that is a very tough combination. It puts pressure on your own serve.''

Seeded third, the reigning Wimbledon winner begins her U.S. Open bid Monday night when she faces Anne-Gaelle Sidot of France. The match also celebrates the 25th anniversary of the first night match in Grand Slam history.

Following Venus Williams onto the Arthur Ashe Stadium stage will be defending men's champion Andre Agassi, who will begin the quest for his second major title of the year against NCAA champion Alex Kim. Agassi began 2000 by winning the Australian Open.

Arantxa Sanchez-Vicario was scheduled to get Day One underway against Joannette Kruger of South Africa. The veteran Sanchez-Vicario, who won this tournament in 1994, is seeded ninth this year.

Scheduled to be second on was to be 1997 winner Martina Hingis, seeded No. 1, against Russian Alina Jidkova.

Then came Pete Sampras, a four-time U.S. Open champion and reigning king of Wimbledon, where he won his men's record 13th Grand Slam tournament title. Sampras, who missed last year's tournament because of injury, took on Martin Damm of the Czech Republic.

In other key matches to begin the fortnight, Seles, twice a winner here, faced fellow American Tracy Almeda-Singian; No. 15 Jennifer Capriati, seeded at Flushing Meadows for the first time since 1993, took on Switzerland's Emmanuelle Gagliardi; and No. 8 Nathalie Tauziat played Bulgaria's Orlin Stanoytchev in the women's draw.

In men's matches, No. 5 Yevgeny Kafelnikov, No. 9 Lleyton Hewitt, No. 11 Tim Henman, No. 13 Franco Squillari and No. 16 Nicolas Lapentti were on the first-day schedule.

While Williams the Younger won't begin the defense of her title until Tuesday, Venus Williams will be seeking her 20th consecutive match win against Sidot. Since the French Open, where she lost in the quarterfinals, Venus has been unbeatable.

So, does Williams think she has a good chance to win the U.S. Open?

``I definitely think so,'' Williams said. ``A lot of times it isn't always about playing well enough, it's about which points you play well and how you feel in your mind. As long as I am mentally there, my chances are really great.''

She has beaten Lindsay Davenport, the 1998 Open winner who is seeded second this year, four times in their last five meetings and the last three times they have battled on hardcourt. And she has beaten Hingis in three of their last four meetings.

``Venus is probably playing the best tennis on tour right now,'' Seles said.