Venus Williams defeats Seles in WTA Championships

LOS ANGELES — Second-seeded Venus Williams saved 10 of 13 break points and beat No. 6 Monica Seles 7-5, 6-4 in the quarterfinals of the WTA Championships on Friday night.
Williams will play No. 5 Kim Clijsters on Sunday in the semifinals of the season-ending tournament that determines the WTA Tour’s final rankings.

Clijsters beat No. 4 Justine Henin 6-2, 6-1 in an all-Belgian quarterfinal.

Seles was clearly the favorite of the crowd at Staples Center, where she saved seven match points in beating Lindsay Davenport in the first round.

“I was very happy to be able to stay with her,” Williams said. “I have a lot of respect for her. She was my favorite player growing up. That’s why I started grunting; I wanted to be like Monica.”

Seles successfully neutralized Williams’ firepower, cracking winners off serves that reached 113 mph. Even when she didn’t hit outright winners, Seles got the ball in play and Williams helped by making 38 unforced errors.

Williams had 11 aces and hit 44 winners to Seles’ 21.

Seles blew a 4-1 lead in the first set, then had four break points to go up 5-3, but Williams hit a forehand winner and a 114-mph serve to hold at 4-4. Williams later broke Seles at love for a 6-5 lead before hitting a backhand winner off her 115-mph serve to win the set.

They traded service breaks early in the second set before Seles led 3-2. Williams survived nine deuces on her serve and tied the set 3-3 when Seles netted a backhand.

Williams broke Seles in two of the next three games for a 5-4 lead. Williams fired a 116-mph ace to set up her first match point. She won it on her second when Seles netted a forehand.

Williams extended her dominance of Seles, having won nine of their 10 career meetings, including the last three.