Fast endgame as Davenport dispatches Mauresmo

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Today, however, after 12 months of hard work following her defeat to Maria Sharapova, the Californian is preparing to take on Venus Williams in her third Wimbledon final.

Davenport, who beat Steffi Graf in the 1999 final and lost to Williams the following year, completed a 6-7, 7-6, 6-4 victory yesterday over Amélie Mauresmo in a semi-final which had been held over from Thursday night with the American needing only four more points to win.

There are normally gaps the size of Watford in the crowd when play opens on Court One, but with the prospect of such a short denouement the stadium was fuller than it had been for any previous lunchtime start. Their reward was four and a half minutes of action.

If Mauresmo's supporters had been heartened by the idea that she would not have time to lose her nerve, they might have been encouraged by her start. She hit three good serves on the resumption, having left the court on Thursday night trailing 5-3 in the final set but leading 15-0.

However, Davenport, who had fought her way back after going a set and 3-1 down, saw the match out with calm authority. Two first serves, neither of which Mauresmo could return, were followed by a smart backhand winner and a sharp rally which ended with the Frenchwoman netting a volley to give the No 1 seed the match.

"Anyone would die to be in a position to serve for a match on grass in the semis of Wimbledon, so I had all that on my side," Davenport said. "To be in the final and come through these tough matches is pretty exhilarating."

Few players know each other's game better than this afternoon's finalists. Davenport has won 14 of their 26 matches, including the last four in a row. Williams, however, has won all three of their previous contests here, in the 2000 final, 2001 semi-finals and 2003 quarter-finals.

"I think playing her is very similar to playing me," Williams said yesterday. "I'm probably going to get to a few more balls and have a bigger serve, but otherwise it's like looking at me across the court."

Davenport agreed. "We both hope to serve well and hold serve," she said. "We both have big ground strokes. I think she definitely covers the court better than I do. She's a tremendous athlete. For me it's about being more consistent with my shots. When you have two big hitters we don't necessarily have a lot of rallies. It's about who serves and who gets the first hit in a rally."

Mauresmo, 25, has failed to reach a Grand Slam final since finishing runner-up in the 1999 Australian Open and is in danger of being remembered as one of the best players never to win a major title. She has now gone out of Wimbledon at this stage in three of the last four years.

"I played well, but not well enough to beat Lindsay," she said. "I knew it would be a tough match because Lindsay has been playing some great tennis since the beginning of the tournament. She always does on grass."

When asked who would win the final Mauresmo was suitably diplomatic. "The serve is going to be the key, but I couldn't really pick a winner," she said. "I haven't seen Venus play since the beginning of the tournament, but she seems to have come back pretty strong."