Venus Williams underscored her US Open intentions with a convincing win, while compatriot Jennifer Capriati again had her dreams shattered in her home Grand Slam.
Capriati blew a big chance to complete an all-American line-up in the women’s semi-finals when she lost to Frenchwoman Amelie Mauresmo.
She led by a set and 6-5 and was serving to close out the match, but Mauresmo held out and she forced a tie-breaker before racing through a deciding set.
With Serena Williams and Lindsay Davenport already through and due to meet for a place in the final, Capriati needed to win to set up a semi-final encounter with either Monica Seles or Venus Williams – both fellow Americans.
But she lost her concentration and with it went the match as Mauresmo mixed up her game the better of the two and ran out a 4-6 7-6 (7/5) 6-3 winner in two hours and 17 minutes.
Mauresmo now has a hold over Capriati, having beaten her three times in succession this year.
This win was a repeat of her quarter-final triumph at Wimbledon, where Mauresmo advanced in straight sets.
“I know she doesn’t really like to play me,” said Mauresmo after the match.
“I have beaten her a few times. My game is a little bit different from the other girls on the tour so maybe she’s not used to it.”
Mauresmo had played much of the first set behind the baseline, but decided to chip and charge from the second set onwards and the switch in tactics proved astute.
Capriati conceded a deciding set advantage when she dropped serve in the third game and then failed to stay alive when serving at 5-3 down.
Mauresmo needed five match points, but having wasted the first four got a helping hand from Capriati who fired a forehand long over the baseline.
“I don’t think I should have lost that match,” said Capriati, who holds the Australian Open title and last year won both Australian and French titles.
She has never gone beyond the last four at Flushing Meadows and will be 27 – a relative veteran on the women’s tour – by next year’s Open.
“I haven’t had time to go over the match, but I shouldn’t have lost it,” she added.
“I really felt I was playing good tennis. I really felt I had a chance to win.
“You have to give your opponent full credit but I have to go back to the drawing board and work out why I didn’t win the match.”
Mauresmo will contend just the third Grand Slam semi-final of her career.
Her career highlight to date was reaching the 1999 Australian Open final, which she lost to Martina Hingis.
At the time Hingis was almost unbeatable on the women’s circuit and Mauresmo now faces another seemingly invincible opponent in Venus Williams.
The American, seeking a third US Open title in succession, completely dominated Monica Seles in her quarter-final.
She claimed the fourth and final semi-final berth with little fuss, overpowering Seles 6-2 6-3.
Williams was outstanding, producing too much power and precision for Seles.
The older, more experienced Seles showed some of the rustiness brought on by a lack of recent match play, missing a couple of useful opportunities to hit winners and occasionally miscuing shots.
At the same time, Williams’ service was almost untouchable, offering up just one late break point chance, and she smashed in 23 winners compared to Seles’ six.
The decisive moment came in the eighth game of the second set, when Seles staged a brief challenge to Williams’ service dominance and had that sole break point opportunity.
But the reigning champion promptly fired in an ace to save the break and then closed out the game to make Seles serve to stay in the match.
That missed opportunity deflated Seles and she produced a double fault, and two unforced errors as Williams headed for her semi-final with Mauresmo relatively untroubled.
After the match, she was understandably delighted with her service game.
“I think my first serve percentage is just higher, and I was able to get a lot of good pace on the first serve,” said Williams.
“Even on the second, I was able to get a lot of kick. So it was bouncing high. I think when she tried to attack it, the ball didn’t bounce exactly where she thought it was going to.”
She was looking forward to the clash with Mauresmo, a player she has beaten in their last four encounters.
“We’ve had some great matches. I played her twice this year – I played her once in Paris and it was real close. Antwerp, the first set was real close. So hopefully I’ll be able to play well and get the match under my belt.”
Meanwhile, Seles was philosophical about her defeat at the hands of a player who simply outperformed her.
“I faced a player that was just better, you know. Really, whatever department, she just played better than I did,” said Seles.
But she deflected suggestions that Williams’ ace to rob her of a break point had been a crushing blow.
“No, I mean, all night long I had a very tough time on her serve. Her serve, for me, was just too good. I mean, that sums it up.”