Davenport on the verge as Mauresmo stalls

Davenport, champion here six years ago, will be the favourite to advance to an all-American final with Venus Williams when the match resumes this afternoon, but on the basis of yesterday's play, which was a bizarre mixture of brilliant tennis, elementary mistakes and jangled nerves, only the most steely of gamblers would risk their bottom dollar on it.

Defeat would be a crushing blow for Mauresmo, who is developing a reputation as one of the game's great chokers. This is her third Wimbledon semi-final in the last four years, but since finishing runner-up in the 1999 Australian Open the Frenchwoman has failed to reach another Grand Slam final. She was a set and 3-1 up here before Davenport clawed her way back into the match.

The delayed start meant that Court One spectators who had waited patiently to see a men's doubles suddenly found themselves watching a women's semi-final, the match having been switched from Centre Court in the hope of completing both singles contests on schedule.

They were treated to a remarkable first set which included some thunderous tennis from two of the hardest hitters in the women's game. Both walloped the ball with formidable power from the back of the court and volleyed confidently, with Mauresmo in particular always ready to venture forward as her serve-and-volley tactics reaped a rich dividend. Davenport, meanwhile, mercilessly punished any weak second serves and treated Mauresmo's sliced backhands with similar contempt.

Yet the mistakes also flowed. While Mauresmo hit some magnificent backhand cross-court winners, she regularly tightened up on the forehand and often hit the ball short. Davenport, never the most mobile of players, often looked uncomfortable in the longer rallies and all too often provided an easy target at the net.

It was Davenport who showed the first signs of nerves, dropping her serve in the sixth game after opening it with two double-faults. Mauresmo won her next service game to love to open up a 5-2 lead, but after the Frenchwoman had conceded a double-fault on her first set point Davenport broke back thanks to two magnificent returns.

On her next service game Mauresmo again gave away a double-fault on game point as Davenport broke once more, only to drop her own serve to love – the American's nerves were evident when she hit a simple smash several feet wide on the first point – as Mauresmo levelled at 6-6.

The first set tie-break swung one way and then the other, both women winning four points in a row before Mauresmo held her game together in the final two points. A forehand crosscourt winner created the set point, which she converted when Davenport, under extreme pressure, netted a forehand.

The second set followed the same pattern. Serves were dropped on a regular basis and thrilling points were interspersed with simple errors. Davenport, serving first, set the tone, hitting an easy forehand into the net on the very first point. Mauresmo led 2-0 and 3-1, but Davenport levelled for 3-3 and the set again went to a tie-break.

This time it was the American's turn to hold her nerve, making the crucial break to go 4-2 up with a sweet volley into the corner. Mauresmo saved the first set point but then made a bad error of judgement, choosing not to volley Davenport's booming forehand cross-court return, only to see the ball drop inside the corner.

Serves were held in the final set until a magnificent seventh game, when Mauresmo was broken as Davenport hit a series of excellent returns. At deuce the American was wrong-footed but somehow dug the ball out to land a winning lob on the baseline. She took the game when Mauresmo netted her volley after another superb return to her feet.

Despite a heavy fall after reaching in vain for a Mauresmo volley, Davenport held her serve to go 5-3 up. With the American just one game from victory, however, the rain started to fall again and the players came off. If today's dessert matches yesterday's starter and main course, the feast is not yet over.

Arts and Entertainment
Books should be for everyone, says Els, 8. Publisher Scholastic now agrees
booksAn eight-year-old saw a pirate book was ‘for boys’ and took on the publishers
Life and Style
Mary Beard received abuse after speaking positively on 'Question Time' about immigrant workers: 'When people say ridiculous, untrue and hurtful things, then I think you should call them out'
tech
Life and Style
Most mail-order brides are thought to come from Thailand, the Philippines and Romania
life
News
i100
Life and Style
tech
Voices
Margaret Thatcher, with her director of publicity Sir Gordon Reece, who helped her and the Tory Party to victory in 1979
voicesThe subject is being celebrated by the V&A museum, triggering some happy memories for former PR man DJ Taylor
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence
Public relations as 'art'? Surely not

Confessions of a former PR man

The 'art' of public relations is being celebrated by the V&A museum, triggering some happy memories for DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef succumbs to his sugar cravings with super-luxurious sweet treats

Bill Granger's luxurious sweet treats

Our chef loves to stop for 30 minutes to catch up on the day's gossip, while nibbling on something sweet
London Marathon 2015: Paula Radcliffe and the mother of all goodbyes

The mother of all goodbyes

Paula Radcliffe's farewell to the London Marathon will be a family affair
Everton vs Manchester United: Steven Naismith demands 'better' if Toffees are to upset the odds against United

Steven Naismith: 'We know we must do better'

The Everton forward explains the reasons behind club's decline this season
Arsenal vs Chelsea: Praise to Arsene Wenger for having the courage of his convictions

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Praise to Wenger for having the courage of his convictions