Facing the last player to beat her, Venus Williams extended her winning streak to 30 matches today by edging Arantxa Sanchez-Vicario to reach the semifinals at the Olympics.
Williams lost her first five service games, double-faulted 13 times and still won, 3-6, 6-2, 6-4.
The second-seeded Williams advanced to an all-American semi Monday against third-seeded Monica Seles, who beat Dominique Van Roost of Belgium 6-0, 6-2.
Williams lost to Sanchez-Vicario at the French Open, then began her winning streak, which includes titles at Wimbledon and the U.S. Open.
“You always expect her to play tough, especially now that it’s the Olympics,” Williams said. “I haven’t played anyone who hasn’t given 200 percent, so today I had to give 300.”
Serving Troubles Keep Match Close
Windy conditions made serving difficult for both players, but Williams had more trouble early, double-faulting three times on break point in the opening set.
She served better after that and became more consistent with her groundstrokes, running Sanchez-Vicario off the court and closing out points at the net.
“She tests you as far as your patience and even sometimes on the confidence of your shots, because she gets so many balls back,” Williams said. “It’s not that you’re necessarily doing something wrong; it’s just that she’s doing some good things. So you just have to keep doing your best when you play against her.”
A swinging volley put Williams ahead 1-0 in the third set — her first lead of the match. That prompted the first chant of “USA! USA!” Sanchez-Vicario had her own problems serving, double-faulting on break point to fall behind 4-1 in each of the last two sets.
Corretja, Tillstrom Lose
The points got wilder down the stretch. As Sanchez-Vicario served at 2-4 in the final set, the racket flew out of her hand on the follow-through and landed 15 feet away. The Spaniard watched helplessly as Williams hit a return for an uncontested winner.
Sanchez-Vicario, a four-time Olympic medalist, fell short in a bid for her first gold. She lost earlier in doubles.
Still alive is unseeded Jelena Dokic, the only Australian remaining in singles. She beat No. 7 Amanda Coetzer of South Africa 6-1, 1-6, 6-1.
In men’s third-round play, No. 6 Alex Corretja of Spain lost to Tommy Haas of Germany 7-6 (7), 6-3. Corretja was the last seeded player in his half of the draw. Haas’ opponent in the quarterfinals will be Max Mirnyi of Belarus, who beat Mariano Zabaleta of Argentina 7-6 (4), 6-2.
Roger Federer of Switzerland beat Mikael Tillstrom of Sweden 6-1, 6-2.
Seles Easily Topples Van Roost
Seles had little trouble against No. 8 Van Roost and has lost only 10 games in four matches. She was denied a medal four years ago in Atlanta when she lost a 2½-hour quarterfinal match to Jana Novotna.
“It was one of the toughest loses of my career,” she said. “Definitely I thought about it this morning when I woke up.”
Van Roost became dispirited after a 14-point second game, when she hit a series of errant groundstrokes and double-faulted twice to lose serve. She double-faulted on break point for the second time to fall behind 4-0, then shanked an overhead on set point. In the second set she had six break-point chances but lost them all.
“It was a fantastic score, but I don’t feel I played that well,” Seles said. “I tried not to give her any free points, and I was successful at that.”
Seles hit with her typical power and consistency from both sides. When Van Roost managed to stay in a long rally, Seles almost always won it.
“In the first set she didn’t make one mistake,” Van Roost said. “In the second set she got a little tired, but the first set was too good for me.”