Williams beats Hingis in thriller to face Davenport for title

All Venus Williams could do at the end was shake her head in disbelief.

All Venus Williams could do at the end was shake her head in disbelief.

Two points from defeat, Williams summoned her fading strength to win four straight games Friday, take out Martina Hingis in an exquisite match and reach the U.S. Open final against Lindsay Davenport.

Williams, seeking the title her younger sister, Serena, won last year, ran her winning streak to 25 matches with a 4-6, 6-3, 7-5 victory that showed off all the athletic skills and heart that brought her the Wimbledon title two months ago.

"I just kept slugging, fighting away," said Williams, who reached the final in her first U.S. Open three years ago but lost to Hingis. Williams said she was just a "yearling" then, with no idea how to play.

"I've got a big heart these days. I really didn't want to lose. I felt this was my opportunity. I deserve to be in the finals and I just needed to get it done.

Davenport, a 6-2, 7-6 (5) victor over 18-year-old Russian Elena Dementieva, will be going for her second U.S. Open title when she plays Williams on Saturday in the first all-American women's final since Chris Evert beat Martina Navratilova in 1984.

The last final between American-born women was 21 years ago, when Tracy Austin beat Evert.

Williams had her lapses, most glaringly when she double-faulted for the third time to lose the first set.

But she turned the momentum and picked up the tempo while breaking Hingis for a 4-3 lead in the second set. On the fifth break point of that game, Williams caught up to a volley by Hingis and sent back a desperate lob. Hingis whacked an overhead long to give Williams the game.

"It was tough to play the overhead," Hingis said. "I was kind of looking for the ball. I couldn't really see because I was getting tired. I definitely had a chance to put away that point."

That began a run of five straight games by Williams.

But Williams was paying a price for her effort. Her legs began to look rubbery, her shoulders were sagging, and she seemed on her way to defeat when she double-faulted again to fall behind 3-2 in the third set.

Hingis, who ran far less and controlled many of the points from the middle, was nevertheless tiring, too, even as she kept holding serve to take a 5-3 lead.

Williams' father, Richard, had been taking his usual cigarette breaks throughout the match and left his courtside seat for the last time as she fell behind 15-30 in the next game. The match, it appeared, was two points from the end, his daughter beaten.

But Williams produced one of her most brilliant shots of a brilliant match, taking an overhead by Hingis and pummeling a backhand pass down the line to end a long, thrilling rally.

Hingis, now, was the one who sagged, and Williams broke her to 5-5 with another backhand winner that Hingis couldn't get near.

"At 5-4, I thought, 'Well, you waited till the last minute to break. This is the last opportunity,"' Williams said.

Williams began the next game with an ace and won it at love for a 6-5 lead that put all the pressure on Hingis. On the second match point, at 30-40, Hingis dumped a forehand into the net to give Williams the victory in 1 hour, 53 minutes.

"It really just seemed all of a sudden the match was over, and that was pretty unbelievable," Williams said.

Williams didn't have the energy for a big celebration. Instead, she kept shaking her head at winning a match that she thought had gotten away.

"I shouldn't be giving things away; it's like giving away free money," Williams said of her 47 unforced errors - 24 more than Hingis had.

But Williams also could take satisfaction in the aggressive way she played, producing 51 winners compared with Hingis' 13.

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