Williams Sisters To Meet in Semis

Wednesday, July 5th 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

WIMBLEDON, England (AP) — The man most responsible for getting the Williams sisters this far doesn't even plan to watch his daughters in the Wimbledon semifinals.

Richard Williams insists he has another engagement to keep when Venus and Serena meet on Centre Court on Thursday for a place in the final of the sport's most prestigious event.

``I won't be here,'' Williams said. ``I'm going to a funeral.''

Williams shuttled between courts Tuesday to watch Serena overwhelm Lisa Raymond 6-2, 6-0, and Venus outslug top-seeded Martina Hingis 6-3, 4-6, 6-4. The Fourth of July victories set up the first all-sister semifinal in Grand Slam history.

The other semifinal will pit defending champion Lindsay Davenport against unseeded 17-year-old Australian Jelena Dokic. Davenport overcame Monica Seles 6-7(4), 6-4, 6-0, while Dokic beat Magui Serna 6-3, 6-2.

``Serena won her match, Venus won her match, Independence Day,'' Richard Williams said. ``What else could you ask for?''

Williams, who raised his daughters from toddlers to become tennis champions, traveled to Wimbledon for the first time this year to watch them play on the sport's grandest stage.

Always unpredictable and never conventional, Williams said he plans to attend the funeral Thursday of a man he didn't even know — the friend of a Royal Air Force steward working at Wimbledon.

``Coming to watch Venus and Serena, my two girls, that is a funeral,'' Williams said. ``One of them is going to be buried. I might as well go to a real funeral. At least I get the music.''

Dad has another reason for staying away.

``I'm not going to go watch Venus beat up on Serena, or Serena beat up on Venus,'' he said. ``Who would I pull for? The wife would leave me.''

Williams, who said he would bet $75 on each daughter, promised he will go to the final no matter who wins Thursday.

Wednesday is set aside for the men's quarterfinals.

Top-seeded Pete Sampras, chasing his seventh Wimbledon title and record 13th Grand Slam championship, meets unseeded Jan-Michael Gambill; No. 2 Andre Agassi faces No. 10 Mark Philippoussis; No. 12 Patrick Rafter plays unseeded Alexander Popp; and Byron Black opposes qualifier Vladimir Voltchkov.

Venus Williams, 20, holds a 3-1 career edge against her 18-year-old sister, with wins at the Australian Open and Italian Open in 1998 and Lipton championships in 1999. Serena won their last meeting, at the Grand Slam Cup in 1999.

``The biggest challenge is that Serena is extremely powerful, extremely dangerous,'' Venus said. ``She knows everything I know.

``Sure, one of us will be bitter (about losing), but not to the degree you'd usually be bitter if you lost in the semifinals. One of us will be in the final. That will be great. We're always happy for each other.''

Serena played down the matchup, saying, ``It's just another meeting between the two of us. It would have been more exciting as a final.''

Getting this far at a Grand Slam is what both sisters have been trained to do.

``We always believed that,'' Venus said. ``Our parents told us that this would happen. That's what we were working for. That's how we saw it. That's how we visualized it. We were always taught to believe we were the best.''

Serena has been the best so far at this tournament, dropping only 13 games in five straight-sets victories.

``She's been blazing, showing no mercy,'' Venus said. ``I want to go in with the same attitude.''

Venus, losing finalist in the 1997 U.S. Open, said playing Serena gives her the best chance of winning her first Grand Slam. Serena already has a Grand Slam title, having won the U.S. Open last year.

``I see it as an opportunity, not an opportunity against Serena,'' Venus said.

The sisters planned to practice together Wednesday. And what will their father, who serves as their manager and coach, tell them?

``I don't think we'll get advice,'' Venus said. ``Dad will say, `Here's the balls. Go practice.'''

After their singles victories, Venus and Serena teamed to reach the quarterfinals of the women's doubles, beating Irina Spirlea and Caroline Vis, 6-3, 6-2. They'll next face Martina Navratilova and Mariaan de Swardt.

With Davenport joining the Williams sisters in the final four, it marks the first time since 1994 that three Americans have reached the women's semifinals here.

``It's great to see, especially on the Fourth of July,'' Davenport said.

Davenport and Dokic have never played each other. While Davenport has rounded back into top form after being slowed by a back injury, Dokic has returned to the spotlight a year after bursting onto the scene by reaching the Wimbledon quarters.

``To come back here and do even better than what I did last year is unbelievable,'' Dokic said. ``I've got nothing to lose. My opponents are the ones that should be worried.''