Williams and Seles advance in Pilot Pen

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The Independent Online

Venus Williams showcased all facets of her game - the good, the bad and the blistering - and beat Elena Likhovtseva 6-3, 7-5 to advance to the Pilot Pen quarterfinals in New Haven, Connecticut.

Venus Williams showcased all facets of her game - the good, the bad and the blistering - and beat Elena Likhovtseva 6-3, 7-5 to advance to the Pilot Pen quarterfinals in New Haven, Connecticut.

Williams has not lost a set to Likhovtseva in five matches and had to fend off five set points in the 10th game of the second set on Tuesday night to keep the straight-set streak alive.

Likhovtseva was up 5-4 and battled through 10 deuces. Williams finally prevailed with a deep forehand winner, but not before recording three of her 11 double-faults of the night.

"That was a minus to say the least. I don't think that I was as serious as I could have been," Williams said.

She looked dead serious from the outset, winning the first game in less than a minute and closing it out with a 102 mph (164 kph) ace.

Williams, the defending Pilot Pen champion, kept Likhovtseva off balance when her serve was on. She had seven aces that ranged in speed from 114 mph (183 kph) to 83 mph (133 kph).

"It's tough. You guess. That's why she serves aces," Likhovtseva said. "She has great ability, she's physical, she's very strong."

Williams' quickness and range gave Likhovtseva little open court to work with. Williams pounced on Likhovstseva's second serves and aggressively attacked the net, going from a power hitter to a finesse player.

"I want to bring something new to the table," she said. "I want to do something my opponents have never seen before."

The reigning Wimbledon champion is on a roll going into the U.S. Open, winning her last three tournaments.

Second-seeded Monica Seles also powered her way into the quarterfinals with a straight-set win over fellow Floridian Kristina Brandi.

Seles' 98 mph (158 kph) ace closed out the 6-2, 6-3 victory, but it was the zip on her pinpoint groundstrokes all afternoon that kept Brandi on her heels.

Seles won their only previous meeting - at Wimbledon in 1997 - in three sets on the slower grass surface. The hardcourts of New Haven provided a speedy tuneup to next week's U.S. Open, where Seles is seeded sixth.

"The key to this week is to try to find the balance between working really hard and not getting injured," Seles said.

She had a two-week layoff before the Pilot Pen due to a strained left forearm and said her timing was off.

"This is the first time I played points," she said. "It took me a while to get into it. I got off to a good start and then had a little bit of a letdown."

Seles is looking for her fourth win of the year. This is her fifth Pilot Pen appearance, and she lost in the semifinals last year to Williams.

In other matches, third-seeded Nathalie Tauziat defeated Meghann Shaughnessy, 6-1, 4-6, 6-4; Patty Schnyder upset eighth-seeded Julie Halard-Decugis 6-3, 7-5 (5); Ai Sugiyama beat Jana Kandarr 6-4, 6-4; and Fabiola Zuluaga defeated Meilen Tu 7-5, 6-1.

Martina Navratilova will provide a blast from the past at the when she takes the court at her first U.S. tournament since coming out of retirement this spring.

The Hall of Famer is paired with 19-year-old Katarina Srebotnik in today's match against Cara Black and Elena Likhovtseva on Stadium Court - the place where six years earlier Navratilova's appearance in an exhibition drew more than 12,000 fans.

Results from the $535,000 Pilot Pen Sanex WTA Tour hard-court tournament:

Singles - First Round

Patty Schnyder, Switzerland, def. Julie Halard-Decugis (8), France, 6-3, 7-6 (5). Ai Sugiyama, Japan, def. Jana Kandarr, Germany, 6-4, 6-4. Fabiola Zuluaga, Colombia, def. Meilen Tu, United States, 7-5, 6-1. Justine Henin, Belgium, def. Sabine Applemans, Belgium, 6-2, 6-4. Second Round= Venus Williams (1), United States, def. Elena Likhovtseva, 6-3, 7-5. Monica Seles (2), United States, def. Kristina Brandi, United States, 6-2, 6-3. Nathalie Tauziat (3), France, def. Meghann Shaughnessy, United States, 6-4, 4-6, 6-4. Dominique Van Roost (6), Belgium, def. Silvija Talaja, Croatia, 6-3, 7-5. ---

Doubles - First Round

Virginia Ruano Pascual, Spain, and Paola Suarez (3), Argentina, def. Kristie Boogert and Miriam Oremans, Netherlands, 6-4, 7-5. Anastasia Myskina, Russia, and Tina Pisnik, Slovenia, def. Erika de Lone, United States, and Nicole Pratt, Australia, 6-3, 6-3.

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