Jeers greet Serena victory

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Serena Williams made it her turn to win the latest so-called battle of the siblings here yesterday, dispatching her older sister, Venus, 6-2, 6-2, to advance to the women's singles final of the Nasdaq-100 Open. But a large portion of the crowd jeered throughout a lop-sided semi-final that was over after 51 minutes.

This was the seventh match between the American sisters, and only the second to be won by Serena – not counting her walk-over in the semi-finals of the Indian Wells tournament last year. Neither sister returned to Indian Wells for this month's tournament after the controversy that raged about them and their father, Richard Williams, last year.

Venus looked anything but a defending champion yesterday, serving poorly and often static when Serena responded with powerful returns, particularly on the second serve. The derisive whistles began long before the end of the opening set, in which Serena broke in the first and seventh games.

Venus trailed 1-4 before breaking in the second set, and immediately lost her serve for 2-5. Venus, who hit a forehand wide on a break point, drove another forehand long on match point.

"I just felt like I never got into the match," Venus said. "Before I knew it, it was over. I made errors, but it was because of the pressure that was on me from Serena's serve, and also from here ground strokes."

Serena, who has often seemed to freeze in their past matches, said: "It definitely removed a mental block for me. I was just playing unbelievably. Venus made too many errors. She played the way I normally do."

Asked about the crowd's reaction, Venus said: "I heard it. A couple of years ago, Monica [Seles] lost to Hingis, 6-0, 6-0, and she had a worse time than I did. So I got off pretty lucky, I guess. I got an applause when I left. That was okay."

Roger Federer, the beneficiary of Tim Henman's neck injury in the fourth round, defeated Andrei Pavel, of Romania, 6-2, 6-2, in the quarter-finals. Federer will play either Lleyton Hewitt or Marat Safin in the semi-finals.

People here still talk about the Chilean invasion of 1998, although it was harmless enough, damaging neither the residents nor the flora and fauna of this picturesque island off Miami. Thousands of flag-waving sports fans from Santiago suddenly materialised to join forces with the some of the local Hispanic population to celebrate the coronation of Marcelo Rios as Latin America's first world No 1 in the ATP rankings.

Rios played Andre Agassi for the first time on that Sunday afternoon in March, and defeated the American, 7-5, 6-3, 6-4. They are due to meet again today in the semi-finals, their respective fortunes having turned cartwheels.

Agassi went on to win the French Open and regained the No 1 ranking. Rios, beset by injuries and loss of form, and also handicapped by a poor grasp of public relations outside his native country, was unable to maintain a high level of performance.

The signs are that Rios is back in the groove. Having scraped a seeding (No 31), entitling him to a bye in the first round, the hugely-gifted left-hander has played impressively, advancing to the last four without dropping a set.

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