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Venus Williams, Seles Reach Finals

August 26, 2000

NEW HAVEN, Conn. (AP) _ Unbeaten since Wimbledon, Venus Williams shows no signs of slowing down.

She overpowered Amanda Coetzer 6-3, 6-4 Friday to roll into the Pilot Pen final to defend her title. The top-seeded Williams has won three straight tournaments and is on an 18-match win streak.

``It would be nice to go without another loss,″ said Williams, seeded third in next week’s U.S. Open.

She will face second-seeded Monica Seles in Saturday’s final. Seles advanced with a 2-6, 6-2, 6-1 win over Nathalie Tauziat. Williams beat Seles last month in the finals in San Diego.

Williams served only two aces, but used them to close out both sets in the 62-minute match. Williams and the speedy Coetzer, who beat her this year in Hamburg, locked up in a few long rallies. Ultimately, Williams’ range and strength prevailed.

``I was a little more aggressive, but this week I feel like my balls are flying out,″ Williams said. ``I feel like I kind of have to play within myself. So tomorrow, I’m going to add more spin, keep it in and deal with the power.″

The fifth-seeded Coetzer not only gave nearly a foot in height to the 6-foot-1 Wimbledon champ, but noted the disparity on the speed gun, too.

``I felt pretty competitive with her off the ground,″ Coetzer said. ``But the difference was a 115 mph first serve and a 78 mph second serve.″

Coetzer led briefly once, 2-1 in the second set. Williams broke on her next serve and was in control the rest of the way.

Playing catch-up, Williams said, is not her style anymore.

``I’m not used to playing from behind, especially far behind,″ Williams said. ``When I first got on the tour I was always gutting it out, fighting to the end. So when I get behind it’s a very strange feeling. But fortunately enough it’s only one or two games these days.″

Seles’ win landed her in her fifth final of the year.

The third-seeded Tauziat has not beaten Seles in 10 tries, but did win her first set against the hard-hitting left-hander after Seles got off to a slow start.

``I just didn’t feel good out there at all. I was giving away so many games during the first set,″ Seles said. ``Nathalie was catching the ball early on. She really had nothing to lose against me. I just kept telling myself to stick with it.″

Until she found her groove, Seles did a lot of backpedaling from Tauziat’s solid service game, and her usually precise groundstrokes were just missing. Tauziat broke twice to go up 4-0, and after both held, closed Seles out with a 96 mph ace. The Frenchwoman, ranked eighth, had 11 aces to Seles’ seven.

Seles, No. 6 in the world, began turning it around when she broke Tauziat in the sixth game of the second set. As Seles’ returns grew stronger and more accurate, Tauziat committed three unforced errors. Tauziat lost her first service game when she blew an open kill shot. Seles then won eight of the next nine games.

Also Friday, Martina Navratilova and partner Katarina Srebotnik were ousted in straight sets in the semifinals. The second-seeded team of Julie Halard-Decugis and Ai Sugiyama beat the Hall of Famer and her 19-year-old partner 6-3, 6-2.

The Pilot Pen was the first U.S. tournament for Navratilova since coming out of retirement to play doubles this spring. The semifinal was the third match in 24 hours for the 43-year-old.

``It took me a little while to get going in practice, but by the time we played I was fine,″ she said. ``Maybe I wasn’t as sharp as I would have liked to have been. It wasn’t the physical, it was the mental and emotional that’s more difficult. But they played really well. They kept us on our heels the whole time.″

She is paired with Arantxa Sanchez-Vicario in the U.S. Open, her third doubles partner this year. Navratilova has won 31 Grand Slam doubles titles, and Sanchez-Vicario has six championships. Navratilova said both like to play the ad court and might have to flip a coin to decide who plays where.

``That will be the challenge to figure out which way to play, but she knows how to play doubles. I know how to play doubles. It should be OK,″ Navratilova said.

Seles, looking for her fourth win of the season, said she can’t afford another slow start against Williams on Saturday.

``I’ll have to come in with a very high level of tennis or else the match will be over very fast,″ Seles said.

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