Davenport advances to Chase Championships semi-finals

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The Independent Online

Lindsay Davenport and Nathalie Tauziat completed the semi-final lineup for the season-ending Chase Championships at Madison Square Garden in New York.

Lindsay Davenport and Nathalie Tauziat completed the semi-final lineup for the season-ending Chase Championships at Madison Square Garden in New York.

Davenport easily defeated Anke Huber of Germany 6-3, 6-1 before the sixth-seeded Tauziat stopped Dominique Van Roost of Belgium 6-3, 6-2 on Friday night.

Saturday's first semi-final will pit defending champion Martina Hingis against No 3 Venus Williams.

Both Davenport and Tauziat are playing some of their best tennis of the year, Davenport winning in Philadelphia last Sunday and Tauziat capturing two titles in recent weeks in Moscow and Leipzig, Germany.

"I'm playing very good right now," Tauziat said following her 70-minute quarterfinal victory. "I'm very confident."

She struggled to close out the opening set, finally doing so on the eighth set point. But that was the only time that Van Roost was able to battle evenly against her 32-year-old French opponent.

"I put a lot of pressure on her and she doesn't like that," said Tauziat, one of the few serve-and-volley players on the women's tour.

Van Roost, who received on-court massage twice for a crick in her neck, won her first two service games in the match, then lost 10 of the next 13 games. The only time she threatened Tauziat's serve was when the veteran right-hander was serving for the first set.

It will be the 14th time Davenport and Tauziat have met, and the American has won 11, including the last two. Davenport, however, is still wary.

"It's not like I'm playing nobodies here," Davenport said. "Nathalie is very dangerous in the serve-and-volley game."

Huber, a finalist in this year-ending event at Madison Square Garden in 1995, when she lost to fellow German Steffi Graf, started off slowly against Davenport and never was allowed to get back into the match.

"I've been getting better as the tournament goes along," Davenport said.

Davenport, the reigning Wimbledon champion, broke Huber's serve five times while losing her own only once.

In the third game of the second set, Huber grabbed a love-40 lead, only to have Davenport blast four consecutive service winners before closing out the game when a Huber error.

"She made five first serves where I didn't touch three, I think," Huber said. "I just had no chance in this game."

That began a streak of 14 straight points won by Davenport, by then her game racing along in high gear. The right-hander ripped through the final five games of the match to claim her spot in the semifinals for the second year in a row.

Huber was her own worst enemy in the final game of the first set - an 18-point game that took eight minutes to play. The German staved off five set points, but was her own worst enemy by committing four double-faults.

The final double-fault, her sixth of the night, gave Davenport her sixth set point. She cashed this one in when Huber was wide with a backhand down the line.

"Anke is a great player," a gracious Davenport said. "Unfortunately for her, she didn't play her best tonight."

Davenport began the match with her left thigh taped, but took off the wrap early in the match.

She lost last year's title match on the blue Garden carpet to Hingis in four sets. In 1994, she also was in the final, losing to Gabriela Sabatini.

"Any tournament you win is great," Davenport said. "When you can finish the year off well, it's very good. And this is the tournament with the best players."

The doubles championship pairings were completed Friday night when the top-seeded team of Hingis and Anna Kournikova defeated Lisa Raymond and Rennae Stubbs 4-6, 7-6 (7-3), 6-0. Hingis and Kournikova will play Larisa Neiland and Arantxa Sanchez-Vicario, who won their semifinal Thursday night.

This year, the singles final will be only a best-of-3-sets in the title match, which is worth dlrs 500,000 to the winner. For years, the women had played a best-of-5 sets final.

Quarter-finals: (2) L Davenport (US) bt A Huber (Ger) 6-3 6-1, (6) N Tauziat (Fra) bt D Van Roost (Bel) 6-3 6-2

Doubles semi-final: (1) M Hingis & A Kournikova (Swi/Rus) bt (3) L Raymond & R Stubbs (US) 4-6 7-6 (7-3) 6-0.