Hingis and Davenport reach final

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The Independent Online

Martina Hingis and Lindsay Davenport will do it all over again.

Martina Hingis and Lindsay Davenport will do it all over again.

The two top seeded players won their semi-final matches on Saturday to reach their final of the season-ending Chase Championships for the second straight year. It also is the second straight week they have battled for a title, facing each other last Sunday in the Advanta Championships in Philadelphia.

The top-seeded Hingis blunted the power of Venus Williams to win 6-4, 7-6 (7-2) before Davenport, seeded second in this elite 16-player field, stopped No 6 Nathalie Tauziat of France 7-6 (7-3), 6-0.

Last year, Davenport was ranked No 1, but it was the second-ranked Hingis who was victorious. Last week, Davenport, now No 2 behind Hingis, beat her Swiss opponent.

"I can't believe I'm back to this point again, giving myself another shot to win it," Davenport said. "Losing in four sets last year was a little bit disappointing, and to give myself another chance to do it is great."

Tauziat, who plays a serve-and-volley game, rare on the women's tour, jumped out to a 4-1 lead before Davenport rallied to knot the score 4-4. The French woman, at 32 one of the oldest players on the WTA Tour, reached set point on Davenport's serve in the 12th game. But Davenport saved it with a service winner before sending the set to a tiebreak two points later with an ace.

Again Tauziat started on top, winning the first point.

Then Davenport went to work, reeling off the next six points and winning the tiebreak 7-3.

The reigning Wimbledon champion, Davenport double-faulted the first two points of the second set, giving Tauziat a love-30 lead. Tauziat would win just two more points, and one of those came on another Davenport double-fault.

"At the end I was not there," Tauziat said. "I mean, my head was not there."

In contrast, the first match was highly competitive down to the very last game.

And with the victory, the 19-year-old from Switzerland kept alive a unique record against Williams. In six meetings this year, Hingis won all three played in the United States, while Williams won the three matches played in Europe.

"I think for the players it's just one of the best tournaments ever, like a big one at the end of the season," Hingis said of the season-ending Madison Square Garden event.

Just like Davenport, Hingis is playing in her third Championships finale, having lost to Steffi Graf in 1996. Davenport lost to Gabriela Sabatini two years earlier.

On Saturday, Williams displayed her power game from the opening serve ÿ a 113 mph (182 kph) shot that was long. Also long was her fastest serve of the day, one clocked at 119 mph (191 kph). And even though she had three double-faults in the opening game of the match, she held serve.

If Williams relied on her power, Hingis was the counter-puncher, changing speeds and spins while using the entire court.

"I had to do something because, as I said, I can't overpower her," Hingis said.

She did it perfectly, controlling the points and pulling off the first break of service.

Williams staved off the first break point in the third game with a backhand crosscourt volley. But her fourth double-fault gave Hingis another break point. This time, Hingis cashed in, taking the net and punching a volley into the corner.

Williams thought she had pulled even in the next game when, at 30-40, she whipped what looked like a backhand service return winner. But the ball was called long, bringing a protest from Williams, before Hingis won the next two points for a 3-1 lead.

The eighth game of the opening set produced some of the most dramatic tennis of the tournament, although seven of 16 points ended with unforced errors.

With Hingis serving, Williams reached break point at 30-40, hoping to put the set back on serve. Instead, she sailed a backhand long. She reached break point again when she ended a long rally with a backhand that skipped off the far baseline. A backhand volley that was wide took them back to deuce again.

Twice more Williams had the ad point. Each time they went back to deuce.

Then it was Hingis' turn to take the advantage. She hit a backhand down the line that Williams not only got to, but rifled a forehand crosscourt winner. Deuce again, for the fifth time in the game.

But Hingis won the next two points to hold, then held again two games later to take the first set.

On a roll, she broke Williams to begin the second set, again coming up a winner on the majority of the long-range battles in which the two engaged.

In one exchange, both players wound up at the net. Hingis tried to lob over the lanky, 6-foot-1 Williams, who soared into the air to hit a backhand overhead volley. Hingis, with her quick reflexes, snapped a backhand down the line that zipped past a startled Williams.

When Williams buried a backhand into the net on the next point, Hingis appeared to be set for a quick victory.

Williams, however, refused to go away easily.

After taking an injury timeout and having her neck massaged by the WTA Tour trainer, Williams continued the fight. Then, in the sixth game, she finally broke Hingis' serve.

The two then battled into the tiebreak, where the consistency and toughness of Hingis prevailed.

The winner of Sunday's best-of-3-sets final will earn $500,000. For reaching the semifinals, Williams and Tauziat each collected $125,000.