Tennis: Williams collision on cards

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VENUS AND Serena Williams are tantalisingly close to becoming the first sisters to contest a top level-singles final since Maud and Lilian Watson met in the inaugural women's singles at Wimbledon in 1884. The snag is that they have to overcome Steffi Graf and Martina Hingis respectively to get there.

Venus, 18, the defending champion at the Lipton Championships here, defeated Jana Novotna for the first time in four matches yesterday, 5- 7, 6-2, 6-3, to advance to the semi-finals. She will play Graf, who had a walkover when Lindsay Davenport, the world No 2, withdrew from the quarter-finals because of a sprained left wrist. Graf has won her last 20 matches in a row at the Lipton.

Serena, 17, plays Martina Hingis, the world No 1, in a keenly anticipated duel. It was probably no more than the proximity to Miami, where people have been made offers they could not refuse, that caused eyebrows to be raised when Serena used the phrase: "We have a lot of business to deal with out there" in relation to her match today against Hingis.

Nothing sinister was intended, however. Asked what kind of business she meant, Serena shrugged and said: "I have to go out and play. I have a job next time I play."

Serena is in splendid form, having won consecutive WTA Tour titles, indoors at the Paris Open and outdoors at the Evert Cup, in Indian Wells, California. On Wednesday night at the Lipton she won her 15th match in a row, defeating the South African, Amanda Coetzer, 6-4, 6-0.

Hingis, 18, won the fifth Grand Slam title of her career at the Australian Open in January and has only conceded 11 games in her four matches here, requiring only 43 minutes to dispatch Austria's Barbara Schett 6-1, 6- 1 in the quarter-finals. The Swiss won her two previous matches against Williams last year, although Williams held two match points in their quarter- final at the Lipton, Hingis going on to lose to Venus Williams in the semi-finals. Hingis said: "I'll love to play against Serena again, because last year was quite close and last time I played her was in Los Angeles; that's quite a while ago."

Serena countered by saying: "When I last played her I couldn't play."

Incidentally, Maud Watson defeated her sister, Lilian, 6-8, 6-3, 6-3.

Richard Krajicek would not swap the joy he felt on this day last year for all the titles on the ATP Tour. His daughter Emma was born, which is why the Dutchman missed the Lipton . Tomorrow, having helped Emma blow out the candle on her cake, Krajicek has an opportunity to win the title and raise his world ranking to a career-high No 4.

The 1996 Wimbledon champion looked virtually unstoppable again yesterday, when he followed Tuesday's straight sets win against Pete Sampras with a semi-final victory against Sweden's Thomas Enqvist, 6-4, 6-2. Krajicek, the No 7 seed, will play either the Frenchman Sebastien Grosjean, ranked No 74, or the Spaniard Francisco Clavet, ranked No 22, in the final.

Krajicek, who defeated Britain's Greg Rusedski in the final of the Guardian Direct Cup at Battersea Park last month, broke Enqvist in the opening game of each set, dominating the second set to the extent of breaking again for 5-2.

n Players are likely to be given more opportunities to prepare on grass courts for Wimbledon. It is proposed to extend the gap between the French Open, played on clay courts in Paris, and the Wimbledon Championships from a fortnight to three weeks, starting next year or in 2001.

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