SYDNEY, Australia (AP) The hottest player in tennis is now an Olympic medalist.
Venus Williams clinched at least a silver and extended her winning streak to 31 matches by beating Monica Seles 6-1, 4-6, 6-3 in an all-American semifinal Monday (Sunday night EDT).
Williams already has won Wimbledon and the U.S. Open this year, and she said the Olympics are probably bigger than a Grand Slam title.
“This is possibly a once-in-a-lifetime thing,” she said. “Everyone is coming out and playing their best. It seems the ultimate thing is to have a gold.”
The second-seeded Williams’ opponent in the final will be the winner of the other semifinal between No. 10 Elena Dementieva of Russia and crowd favorite Jelena Dokic, an unseeded Australian. The loser will face the third-seeded Seles for the bronze.
Williams also remained in contention for the gold in doubles with her sister Serena.
Williams and Seles played the first match of the day before a subdued center court crowd. The gray, damp, chilly weather was reminiscent of Wimbledon, and so was Williams’ performance.
She came to the net more than in previous matches at Sydney, and her power forced Seles to rush her shots and often hit off balance.
“That was a tough match,” Seles said. “Venus played really well, and at the end it got really close, but she played the key points better.”
The first set took just 18 minutes. Williams led 4-2 in the second set but then began to struggle with her serve, double-faulting five times in the next two games – including twice on break point – to lose the set.
Williams regained her poise in the final set. She whacked three consecutive aces for a 3-1 lead, then erased two break points with big serves in the eighth game for a 5-3 lead. On the first match point, she belted a backhand winner down the line to complete the victory.
“I had some rough patches, and it could have gone either way,” Williams said. “Usually when it comes down to it, I’m able to close it out in important matches.”
Seles was once the hardest hitter in women’s tennis, but no more. She fell to 0-5 against Williams.
Williams advanced to the semifinal Sunday with a 3-6, 6-2, 6-4 victory over Arantxa Sanchez-Vicario. Williams lost to Sanchez-Vicario at the French Open, then began her winning streak.