Williams prepared for hard hitters

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The Independent Online

The irresistible force of Jennifer Capriati faces the immovable object of Serena Williams in the quarter-finals of the women's singles this afternoon after both Americans made light work of their fourth-round matches yesterday.

Capriati's comeback road-show hurtled into the last eight when the 25-year-old Grand Slam-seeker dispatched Sandrine Testud, of France, 6-1, 6-2, in 58 minutes. Williams did her job with even greater haste, overcoming Magdalena Maleeva in 49 minutes, 6-2, 6-1, with all the subtlety of a tank on manoeuvres. The pair have met twice already this year – in the quarter-finals at both the Ericsson Open and Roland Garros – with Capriati winning on each occasion. Not that Williams is conceding any ground.

"The last time we met I didn't play," Williams said after she had progressed yesterday. "I think it was someone impostering me. I was hitting a lot of errors and going crazy. This time I just need to make sure I'm out there performing and I'm not making all those errors, playing the way Serena Williams knows how to play."

The way Serena Williams "knows how to play", if her match with Maleeva is any indication, goes something like this: Walk out on court, take your seat and throw your Amazon shadow over your opponent. This brings home to her that you're 5ft 10in and built like the artillery device you're about to resemble. Next, stand up and rain thunderous serves upon her (114mph should be okay), remembering that you might, if she has the temerity to reply, need to utilise the double-handed backhand. This will generally be sufficient, although a bit of running now and then (and who knows, even giving the other side a break point before saving it and then serving out to love) might appease the purists.

"My dad and I discussed how, in the Slams, especially in the early rounds, I tend to fly through my matches," Williams said, when asked if having it so easy in the early rounds was actually very good preparation for tougher opponents. "So we're working on a plan in practice so that when I do play a harder player, like Capriati, then I won't be so used to getting just the players that aren't hitting hard.

"I prep myself mentally and keep reminding myself that this is Wimbledon, this is not your normal tournament. When I think about that, I really want to play better. Right now I'm really ready. It's been a while since I won a Grand Slam [the US Open in 1999]. I'm really focused. Before I got here, I went home and I worked really hard. I really think I might deserve this."

Obviously not a person who's too concerned about jinxing herself, she then admitted she has already bought her dress for the champions' ball. "I already bought it," she said. "I always usually get it ahead of time because I know I'm going to be there [at the Champions' Ball] and because I know I'm going to win an event. This year I'm definitely trying to win the singles event."

Capriati's victory yesterday was less resounding, although still comfortable. "So far this is the best I've played in the tournament," she said, before adding that her recent triumphs have not necessarily as easy as they've looked and that she's taking nothing for granted today.

"From the outside tennis is very quiet, looks very calm and everything," she said. "But inside there's just a volcano waiting to erupt there." On today's match – first up on Centre Court – she added: "Just because I won against her last time, I'm not going to get too overconfident, which can happen if I think about it too much."

Joining Capriati and Williams in the last eight is the defending champion and latter's sister, Venus, who beat Nadia Petrova, of Russia, 6-2, 6-0 yesterday, and now faces the veteran Frenchwoman Nathalie Tauziat, who progressed past Tamarine Tanasugarn, of Thailand, 6-3, 6-2. Venus said afterwards that she, too, had already bought her Champions' Ball dress, although she conceded there are three more hurdles to clear before she can use it as the singles champion. "I just think I'm going to have to stay calm and not get rushed at all, just stick to my guns," she said of her match against Tauziat. "That's how I approach every match."

The other two quarter-finals will pit former champions against Belgian teenagers – the 1999 winner, Lindsay Davenport, takes on Kim Clijsters, and the 1994 champion, Conchita Martinez, faces Justine Henin. Davenport beat Jelena Dokic, 7-5, 6-4, courtesy of a single break in each set, while Clijsters overcame Meghann Shaughnessy in two tie-break sets. Martinez beat Lina Krasnoroutskaya, of Russia, 6-3, 6-4, yesterday, and Henin defeated Anke Huber, of Germany, 4-6, 6-2, 6-2.

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