Venus beats Serena in straight sets

NEW YORK -- Far from a family feud, matches between Venus and Serena Williams create a family crisis.

This time neither of their parents could watch.

Artistry gave way to sheer slugging again in Sister Act XIV, the ongoing saga of siblings who hate to play each other -- especially if it's not for a Grand Slam title.

Venus' 7-6 (5), 6-2 victory Sunday to reach the quarterfinals at the U.S. Open evened their head-to-head matches at 7-7 and gave the elder sister her second win this year after losing six straight to Serena.

Venus bottled up her emotions, not her power, and could hardly manage a smile when it was over. Serena Williams shrieked and bounced her racket before limping off, angry at herself and achy.

It was the ninth time they met in a Grand Slam match and the earliest since Venus won the first clash in the second round of the 1998 Australian Open. Serena had won their last five matches in majors -- all in finals.

"Serena is the baby so she's going to do her little tantrum," said older sister Lyndrea, the only immediate family member watching at courtside. "You kind of want to pull for her because she is the baby. It's hard but I had to be there for them."

The 25-year-old Venus, who won her third Wimbledon two months ago and is going for her third U.S. Open title, could see that Serena, three weeks shy of 24, was struggling to control her shots and temper.

"When she doesn't play her best is the best time to get a win against her," said Venus, who next plays No. 4 Kim Clijsters, a 6-1, 6-0 winner against Venezuela's Maria Vento-Kabchi.

Women's top seed Maria Sharapova had no trouble dismissing India's rising star, Sania Mirza, 6-2, 6-1, and next plays fellow Russian and No. 9 Nadia Petrova, a 7-6 (4), 7-5 victor over Nicole Vaidisova of the Czech Republic.

Serena was in trouble from the start, losing the first three points on her serve in the opening game, but kept scrambling back -- often with the help of Venus' errors. Venus broke her for a 4-3 lead in the first set and served for the set at 5-4 when she suddenly tightened. After winning 11 straight points on serve in previous games, she hit two double-faults and made two errors to even the set.

The tiebreak was a messy affair filled with minibreaks before Venus won it when Serena dumped a backhand into the net. Serena bounced her racket onto the court and stalked angrily to the chair.

A swirling breeze contributed to the erratic play but didn't account for all of it. Serena kept talking to herself, screaming at times, bouncing her racket and once coming close to busting it on the court. She thought better of that at the last moment and held up but couldn't control her wayward shots. Neither sister was happy with their play.

"I had some bad patches," Venus said. "I think Serena had some tough patches, too, and then some good ones. It was tough. Today the wind was from behind, especially on one side, so that kind of threw the serve off."

Serena was limping near the end but said she didn't reinjure the left knee that swelled up last month or the left ankle that bothered her earlier this year.

"I was just having problems at the end because I was moving a lot and stopping a lot," Serena said. "It always gives me a little trouble after a certain time period. Nothing happened out there to make it worse at all."

They both used the same term -- "bizarre" -- to describe playing each other this early in a tournament. It was almost inevitable, though, since their rankings had dropped, largely because they've been injured or ill. Serena was seeded No. 8, Venus No. 10.

"It was distracting for both of us, to be honest," Venus said. "I'm really dedicated to get my ranking up. I'm tired of being ranked this low. I just know myself that I'm better than No. 10. We were sad when we were heard the draw. We didn't talk about it until
now. It's hard because I want her to be in the tournament. I want her to win just as much as I want to. If it's a final, it's obviously different. It was super strange, for sure."

Venus will take on Clijsters, who smashed 20 winners in her 42-minute win over Vento-Kabchi and promised to attack from the start against Williams.

"I think what you have to do when you play against her is just make sure you play aggressive tennis," Clijsters said. "If you don't do that, if you don't go for your shots,
they're just too good. You have to try from the moment you get a second serve or a weaker first serve, just go for it."

Williams has won six of their nine career meetings, and Clijsters said she would have to play close to her best tennis if she is to advance.

"A couple matches I've played against her, once she gets on a roll, that's very tough," she said. "If she starts serving well, if she starts seeing the ball well, then she can just hit winners out of every corner of the court.

"You have to try to make sure that you are one step ahead. That means I'll probably have to take some more risks," she said.

Williams won their 2001 quarterfinal encounter at Flushing Meadows, 6-3, 6-1.

The WTA announced that Clijsters will donate $25,000 to the American Red Cross to aid the relief programme following Hurricane Katrina, which has devastated New Orleans and U.S. Gulf Coast states.

Mirza, the first Indian woman to reach the fourth round of a Grand Slam, traded crunching groundstrokes with Sharapova but was gradually overpowered.

Sharapova broke Mirza to lead 4-2 in the first set and then fended off three break points in the next game to build a commanding lead over the world No. 42.

"I'm playing pretty well," said Sharapova. "I know it's going to get tougher and
tougher from here

Mirza is probably the only women's tennis player who can rival Sharapova's global marketing potential thanks to her enormous Indian fanbase, and she also has a forehand of Sharapova-like proportions. The Russian was at times out-hit by her fellow 18-year-old in the first set but Mirza's error count proved to be her undoing.

"There were a lot of games that I could have taken but I had fun out there," Mirza said. "In my first U.S. Open I couldn't have asked for any more."

Information from The Associated Press and Reuters was used in this report.