WIMBLEDON, England – Top-ranked Lindsay Davenport (search) needed just seven points Friday to complete a rain-interrupted victory in the Wimbledon semifinals, beating Amelie Mauresmo (search) 6-7 (5), 7-6 (4), 6-4.
A three-time Grand Slam champion, Davenport advanced to her first major final since 2000. Her opponent Saturday will be two-time Wimbledon winner Venus Williams (search), who advanced Thursday when she eliminated defending champion Maria Sharapova (search) 7-6 (2), 6-1.
Ten minutes after Williams completed her victory, showers halted the other semifinal for the night with Davenport leading 5-3 in the third set and Mauresmo serving at 15-love.
Davenport won the final three games before play was suspended. When the match resumed nearly 18 hours later, Mauresmo held serve at love, but Davenport then did the same.
When Mauresmo dumped an easy volley in the net on match point, Davenport limited her on-court celebration to a smile.
The 1999 champion won her most recent major title at the Australian Open in January 2000. After losing in the Wimbledon semifinals last year, she spoke of retirement, but a subsequent string of four consecutive hardcourt titles changed her mind.
Regardless of Saturday's result, she's assured of retaining the No. 1 ranking next week.
Davenport beat Mauresmo for the seventh consecutive time. The Frenchwoman lost her fourth Grand Slam semifinal in a row, including three at Wimbledon, and has yet to win a major title.
Williams looked like the Venus of old against Sharapova, dominating with her serve and pounding groundstrokes into the corners to overpower an opponent unaccustomed to being on the defensive. Williams was rewarded with her first berth in a major final since sister Serena beat her for the 2003 Wimbledon title.
"My play has just gotten better with each opponent, and my level has raised with however my opponent was playing," Venus said. "It's satisfying, but I've always felt that I can play at this level."
Even if Williams falls short Saturday in a bid for her fifth Grand Slam title, and her first since 2001, she has rebutted the perception that she's less interested in tennis than in her interior design business or such hobbies as reading and shopping.
"I put tennis first in my life," she said. "I wake up in the morning, go to practice, go to the gym, train and give it my best effort.
"The other things that I do are because it makes me happy. I think it complements my tennis and also makes me work harder, because I realize it's not easy in the real world. But I think my world also is as real as it gets."
Her world has been complicated by a series of injuries, including shoulder and stomach ailments that hampered her serve. But in the semifinal, she hit serves at up to 121 mph and overcame six of seven break points against her.
Sharapova, broken just once in the first five rounds, lost her serve four times.
"I don't have as big a serve as her," Sharapova said. "She was serving consistently big."
The loss snapped a grass-court streak of 22 consecutive victories for second-seeded Sharapova.
"I'm obviously very sad," she said. "This tournament means a lot to me, more than any other tournament. I guess there are more years to come."
The precocious Russian hasn't reached a major final since her surprising title run at Wimbledon a year ago. She still has a good chance to overtake Davenport for the No. 1 ranking during the upcoming hardcourt season, but remains eager to improve.
"I need to be stronger," she said. "The stronger I get, the bigger my serve will be, the easier it will be for me to maybe hold serve and get more free points. But at 18, I don't think it's possible to have a huge consistent serve. I know with hard work and practice and repetition it will get bigger and stronger and more accurate."
At No. 13 last year, Sharapova became the lowest-seeded player to win the women's championship when she beat Serena Williams (search) in the final. At No. 14, Venus is seeded even lower and, for a change, won't have to face her sister for the title.
Venus has lost her past five Grand Slam finals, all to Serena. But two-time Wimbledon champion Serena flew home last week after being upset by Jill Craybas (search) in the third round.
Before the semifinals, Serena offered Venus long-distance encouragement.
"Serena sent me an e-mail earlier, telling me what to do and to just stay in there and play my game and I was the best," Venus said, laughing. "I guess I took that to heart."