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Davenport, Venus advance

2 players are similar on court, different off

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WIMBLEDON, England — Lindsay Davenport wore a simple silver clip in her hair. Venus Williams sported a sparkling blue and white pin on one side and a glistening red and green one on the other.

Davenport doesn't get much attention. Williams can't escape it. But there was a similarity Tuesday. Both won their Wimbledon matches.

And when they meet in the semifinals Thursday, their styles won't be much different — two tall, hard-hitting women whose theatrics are rarer than double faults.

They also happen to be the past two Wimbledon champions.

"She goes about her business, doesn't say much anymore," Davenport said, "just plays, wins or loses. I don't really think there's too much drama with her."

Davenport could just as well be describing herself, except, unlike defending champion Williams, the spotlight doesn't seek her off the court.

"I'm not a shy person, but a shy person in the sense that I don't like reading stories about myself," Davenport said. "I definitely don't think it's hurt my career."

She didn't need much flair to end 1998 as the world's top-ranked woman player and finish the last two years second to Martina Hingis. A knee injury that shelved her for three months this year didn't keep her from being ranked third heading into Wimbledon.

Yet she's far down on the headline writers' popularity list, even when the London tabloids are having an off year without Anna Kournikova in the tournament.

In the men's quarterfinals Wednesday, it was Andre Agassi against Nicholas Escude, Marat Safin against Goran Ivanisevic, Tim Henman against Roger Federer and Pat Rafter against Thomas Enqvist.

The other women's semifinal Thursday features Jennifer Capriati as the comeback queen who's made it halfway to winning the Grand Slam.

In a dramatic if hardly flawless match, Capriati came within two points of losing, then beat Serena Williams 6-7 (4), 7-5, 6-3.

Davenport played a less thrilling match against a talented but lesser-known opponent, beating French Open runner-up Kim Clijsters 6-1, 6-2.

"After a day of a lot of drama, my match was pretty mellow," Davenport said.

The stage will be brighter when she meets Venus in a rematch of last year's championship match. Capriati faces Justine Henin in the other semifinal.

"There's going to be more rallies" than in the match with Serena, Capriati said.

Henin, a French Open semifinalist, overwhelmed 1994 champion Conchita Martinez 6-1, 6-0. Venus breezed by Nathalie Tauziat 7-5, 6-1. Fans cheered loudly for Venus, who has won all 10 sets she's played in the tournament. She appreciates that, but public support is no guarantee of private contentment. "Wasn't that like the chief theme of Death of a Salesman, to be well-liked? What happened to them?" she said. "You've got to like yourself first. If that doesn't help, you're lost."

Serena discussed nutrition rather than literature, revealing how her ailment made it tough to eat.

"It's a great diet," she said with a laugh.

The down-to-earth Davenport spoke about her steady if unspectacular game based on hard, deep shots.

"Might not look as flashy as some other players hitting winners all the time," she said, "but (it) certainly gets the job done."

Yet Davenport appreciates the attention the playing and personal styles of the Williams sisters have brought to the sport.

"They've been probably the best thing that's happened to tennis," she said.

Davenport's been pretty good, too.