NEW YORK -- Under the glare of floodlights in Arthur Ashe Stadium Wednesday night, the championship aspirations of Pete Sampras and Lindsay Davenport remained in bright focus while the hopes of Richard Krajicek and Serena Williams faded into the shadows at the U.S. Open.
In captivating prime-time performances against major nemeses, Sampras rallied to defeat Krajicek, 4-6, 7-6 (6), 6-4, 6-2, and Davenport routed Williams, 6-4, 6-2, in quarterfinal matches.
Sampras had lost six of nine matches against his Dutch foe, who was the last player to defeat Sampras at Wimbledon, dispatching the seven-time champion in the quarterfinals in 1996 en route to his only Grand Slam title.
Davenport had lost five of six against Williams.
But Sampras survived four set points in the second-set tiebreaker on his way to the semifinals, where Saturday he will play 19-year-old Lleyton Hewitt of Australia, a 6-2, 6-4, 6-3 winner over Arnaud Clement of France.
Davenport's one-sided victory earned her a semifinal date Friday against 18-year-old Elena Dementieva of Russia, who defeated 10th-seeded Anke Huber of Germany, 6-1, 3-6, 6-3.
"I thought I was gone," Sampras said of his predicament in the second-set tiebreaker, when he trailed, 6-2. "Being down two sets to love, it would have been a tough hole to get out of."
Sampras, seeking his first U.S. Open title since 1996 and his fifth overall, turned the match around by winning six consecutive points, the first on a touch volley off his shoe tops.
With Krajicek serving at 6-3, Sampras mis-hit a forehand return that floated over Krajicek's head and landed barely inside the baseline. Sampras then ripped a backhand cross-court return for a winner, closing to 6-5.
After Krajicek netted two forehands, Sampras nailed a forehand winner on set point.
"I got a little lucky, to be honest with you," Sampras said. "I don't know how I won the tiebreaker."
Said Krajicek: "It was just meant to be that he would win that set, apparently. I don't know....
"I don't think I can really blame myself for doing anything really wrong in the tiebreaker."
Sampras said the match was a lot like his victory over Patrick Rafter in the Wimbledon final two months ago, when he lost the first set and trailed in the second-set tiebreaker, 4-1, before rallying to win.
"I was thinking about it a lot after the second set," he said. "Such a similar match. With the tiebreaker, the whole match changed within a couple minutes. Like a carbon copy of the Wimbledon final.
"Then I kind of raised my level a little bit and Richard got maybe a touch down on himself."
Earlier, the second-seeded Davenport's dominant performance ended talk of a sister-sister final matching Williams and her third-seeded older sister, Venus, who will play top-seeded Martina Hingis of Switzerland in the semifinals.
"I think everyone was thinking it was going to be an all-Williams final," said Davenport, the 1998 champion, "but Martina and I had a little talk and thought we didn't want that to happen."
Davenport had not defeated Serena Williams since 1997, a string of five losses that included a semifinal defeat at the U.S. Open last year and a championship-match setback last month at Manhattan Beach.
But Williams, despite her remarkable speed and quickness, struggled to run down Davenport's deep, blistering ground strokes on a cool, still night.
"That's the best she ever played against me," Williams said. "She should take that attitude toward everyone."
Davenport survived three break points in the second game of the first set, then broke Williams' serve in the ninth.
After firing forehands long on the last two points, a frustrated Williams let out a scream and banged her racket onto the court.
She slammed it even harder during the 10th game, cracking the frame and drawing an automatic code violation for racket abuse after netting a backhand.
Davenport served out the set, opened the second set with another break and eventually opened a 4-0 lead en route to her 10th Grand Slam semifinal.
"Obviously, it feels great to get over the hurdle of beating her," Davenport said. "It was a big match to get through....
"I wanted to be more aggressive and be in control of the points.... I really felt I got a good hit at the ball and wasn't being jerked around too much and was able to dictate where the ball was going. That's what I'd love to do every time."
Williams, meanwhile, vowed to return, saying that an all-Williams final is inevitable.
"It's going to happen," she said. "Nobody's going to be able to stop it. Unfortunately, I didn't hold up my end this year. I'm going to do my utmost to make sure it happens....
"Obviously, no one would want to see an all-Williams final because everyone doesn't really like us."
Actually, most people probably would love to see it.
Davenport just isn't one of them.
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