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Semis offer Serena stage for revenge
Reuters, PTI
London, July 02, 2003
First Published: 19:56 IST(2/7/2003)
Last Updated: 19:56 IST(2/7/2003)

Revenge, national pride and the world number one spot are just three of the intriguing sub-plots at Wimbledon on Thursday as the top four seeds go head-to-head in the women's semi-finals for the first time since 1995.

Number one seed and defending champion Serena Williams has more than just her Wimbledon crown on the line against French Open champion Justine Henin-Hardenne -- a repeat of the now infamous semi-final at Roland Garros last month.

If Serena loses and Kim Clijsters, playing sister Venus in the other semi-final, wins the tournament, the American could be knocked from the world number one spot she seemed set to hold for the foreseeable future.

Serena claims to have forgotten Paris, when she was booed and reduced to tears by a fiercely pro-Henin crowd and later accused the Belgian of "lying and fabricating".

"What happened in Paris stayed in Paris," said the 21-year-old after beating Jennifer Capriati in the quarter-finals on Tuesday.

"I don't think (Henin) has any regrets about it, she won the French and played very well, why would she have any regrets?"

Henin-Hardenne, who earned her first grand slam title at Roland Garros, is looking to repeat Serena's feat of last year by winning the French Open and Wimbledon titles in quick succession.

"Players who win the French and Wimbledon, like Serena did last year, it has to be great," said 21-year-old Henin, the losing 2001 Wimbledon finalist. "I hope one day I will do it too."

UNIQUE RIVALRY

Henin has also tried to play down the events in Paris, saying that she and Serena have spoken in the locker room, although silence will probably be golden before they walk out on to Centre Court on Thursday.

The new, and probably unique to women's tennis, Belgium-U.S. sporting rivalry will continue in the other semi-final between one player anxious to re-assert her authority and one still looking to sparkle on the biggest stage.

Venus, champion here in 2000 and 2001, has been in the shade of her younger sister since the last of her four grand slam titles at the U.S. Open two years ago.

Last year's straight sets defeat by Serena was a bitter pill to swallow and while outwardly the sisters are a picture of harmony, Venus will be desperate to have her initials on the Rosewater Dish again.

Clijsters, the youngest of the semi-finalists at 20, has been the most consistent performer on the women's tour this year.

She has reached the semi-final or better in all 11 events she has played in this year -- a run that could install her as world number one.

Venus, however, possesses far more venom than the bee that stung Clijsters during her quarter-final victory over Italy's Sylvia Farina Elia and she will have to be at her best to further her quest for a first grand slam title.


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