Williams and Davenport reach final

Venus Williams hopes the third time is the charm at the Bank of the West tournament.

Venus Williams hopes the third time is the charm at the Bank of the West tournament.

By defeating ninth-seeded Anna Kournikova 6-4, 7-5 on Saturday, No. 2 seed Williams advanced to her third consecutive final in the event at Stanford, California - but she has yet to win the title.

The Wimbledon champion has lost here the last two years to Lindsay Davenport, who defeated No. 4 seed Monica Seles 7-5, 7-6 (2) in Saturday's other semifinal.

"I became the victim the last two years. Hopefully I won't be this year," said Williams, who beat Davenport to win the Wimbledon championship last month. "I've played this tournament six times. I'd love to win here."

Davenport had 11 aces in her victory over Seles.

"It was a tough loss at Wimbledon, but I've let it go," said Davenport. "Now it's on to the hardcourt season and it would be nice to start out with a win."

Davenport and Williams have met 13 times, with Davenport winning nine matches. Williams, however, has won three of the last four.

"It shows you what consistent performers we are," Davenport said. "She's obviously on a big roll. She has a lot of firepower and is very athletic. Now she's more consistent."

Williams, who made her professional debut at this event when it was held in Oakland in 1994, took control of her match against Kournikova early, breaking the Russian's serve in the first game of the match.

Williams played more aggressively than she did in barely getting past Amy Frazier in the quarterfinals on Friday - a match that Williams won in a third-set tiebreaker.

"I was definitely at least 50 percent sharper," Williams said of Saturday's performance. "Today I did a lot more things right."

Williams said her serve, which reached 117 mph (190 kph) against Kournikova, is still getting better. She had 11 double faults on Saturday.

"I'm going forward and by the time the U.S. Open rolls around, I'm going to be pretty devastating," she said. "I still have to clean up my act some."

Williams broke Kournikova's serve twice in the first five games of the match, and took a 5-1 lead. Kournikova rallied to 5-4 before Williams held serve for the winner.

"I just started to play a little late," said Kournikova, who reached her fourth semifinal of the year but is still without a tournament singles title. "It took me time to get used to the points. It was a completely broken rhythm."

The second set was far more competitive as the two players broke serve in the first three games. That helped Williams take a 3-1 edge.

Kournikova came back to take a 4-3 lead as Williams double-faulted three times in one game, and couldn't seem to handle Kournikova's serve in another game.

"It was just a lot of technical breakdowns," said Williams. "A point here and a point there and suddenly you're in a third set and your opponent has a lot of confidence. I made it a lot harder on myself than it should have been."

Results from the $535,000 Bank of the West Classic hardcourt tennis tournament:

Singles - Semifinals

Venus Williams (2), United States, def. Anna Kournikova (9), Russia, 6-4, 7-5. Lindsay Davenport (1), United States, def. Monica Seles (4), United States, 7-5, 7-6(2).

---

Doubles - Semifinals

Chanda Rubin, United States, and Sandrine Testud (1), France, def. Kim Clijsters, Belgium, and Meghann Shaughnessy, United States, 6-4, 3-6, 6-3. Cara Black, Zimbabwe, and Amy Frazier (4), United States, def. Debbie Graham, United States, and Kimberly Po (2), United States, 2-6, 6-2, 7-5.

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