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Williams Joins Davenport in Final

August 2, 1998

STANFORD, Calif. (AP) _ Venus Williams slammed 12 aces, including one on the first point of the match and another on the final point, to beat Monica Seles 6-3, 6-4 on Saturday night in the Bank of the West semifinals.

Williams, seeded third, will face top-seeded Lindsay Davenport on Sunday in the final of the $450,000 tournament. Davenport beat Steffi Graf 6-4, 6-7 (4-7), 6-3 in the afternoon semifinal.

Williams dominated on her serve throughout the match. Even when she wasn’t piling up aces, Williams was hitting service winners and forcing the second-seeded Seles to virtually bunt back other serves.

``I really can’t remember when I served this well,″ Williams said. ``The whole time it was consistent serving.″

The only time Seles threatened to break Williams’ serve was in the fourth game of the second set, but the 6-foot-1 1/2 Williams fought off three break points to hold her serve.

``Obviously, I’ve never played anyone as tall as Venus. She mixed it up very well,″ Seles said. ``She does a very good variety on her serve. I really love that part of her game. I wish I had that serve and that athletic ability.″

Williams, 17-1 in tournaments in the United States this year, went to the side of the court to receive congratulations from her father, Richard Williams, immediately after the match.

Williams said she was happy with the spin on her serves, and on the way she showed Seles several different types of serves.

``You have to work on that, because it’s easy to become one-dimensional and just serve to your favorite space and the person is just waiting there,″ she said. ``You have to take risks and serve out wide sometimes.″

It was the first meeting between the two players.

In the first semifinal, Graf was undermined by unforced errors and an erratic backhand. Graf’s serve remains strong and her forehand is as dangerous as ever, but a long layoff following knee surgery has robbed her of the consistency that once was among Graf’s trademarks.

Davenport, ranked third in the world, had lost in the semifinals of this tournament five of the previous six years. She reached her first final in the event by using her consistent play to take advantage of Graf’s mistakes.

``I think I’ve picked up my game a lot, I’m a little more consistent,″ Davenport said. ``People say she (Graf) has been out for a year and a half and she’s not ranked that high anymore, but it’s still a good win.″

Graf was seeded fourth despite falling to No. 57 in the world since having reconstructive left knee surgery last year. The women’s tour has given her a special co-ranking of No. 7 until the U.S. Open, allowing Graf to be seeded at this and two other tournaments.

Graf has had a difficult recovery from the knee surgery. Her comeback has been stalled by other injuries, and she became so frustrated earlier this year that she considered retiring.

She said Saturday’s match, which lasted more than two hours in intense heat, was a good way of judging how far she still has to go in her comeback.

``I haven’t had a lot of matches or three setters in the past 1 1/2 years, so it’s definitely something that makes me realize what I have to work on,″ said Graf, who was cramping in both legs in the third set. ``There are a few things that I have to work on _ definitely return of serve.″

Graf said she just ran out of energy in the final set.

``I wish I would have had something left in the third set,″ she said. ``In the third set, from 3-all on I didn’t know how to move anymore.″

The players stayed on serve in the third set until Davenport broke in the eighth game to go up 5-3. She then served out the match, getting to match point on a net cord and wrapping up the victory with an overhead putaway.

``It’s sometimes just a matter of a few points that make the difference in the match,″ Davenport said. ``I was really struggling to hold my serve the whole third set, but luckily I got one break and it was all over.″

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