Wimbledon classic rematch for Serena, Dementieva

LANCE HORNBY, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 8:54 AM ET

Some lingering bitterness from Wimbledon might be settled today between Elena Dementieva and Serena Williams in their Rogers Cup semi-final.

In a match they still talk about over strawberries and cream, Dementieva seemed about to elbow her way into tennis headlines, on the verge of winning a tiebreaker semi that lasted just less than three hours, the longest match in both Wimbledon history and Williams' great Grand Slam career.

"Really insane," Williams recalled yesterday of the 6-7, 7-5, 8-6 classic in June, that denied Dementieva a chance at her first and only Grand Slam championship.

Trailing 5-4, Williams saved match point with a brilliant backhand volley, clinching with a backhand that bounced off the net, which Dementieva returned wide.

They meet today for the first time since, Serena second ranked in the world, Dementieva fourth, just behind Williams' sister Venus, and the U.S. Open looming next month.

Strength and conditioning were on Williams' side that day and, after watching her take less than an hour to steamroll Czech qualifier Lucie Safarova 6-3, 6-2 yesterday, Dementieva acknowledged it's going to be another draining afternoon for the 28-year-olds, born 19 days apart.

"Looks like she's in good shape, playing powerful through all the matches this week," the Russian said, after her own 6-7, 6-1, 6-3 character-builder against Aussie super-server Samantha Stosur. "I feel (Wimbledon) was one of the best matches of my career, even that I lost. (Today) is going to be a completely different challenge because we are playing on hardcourt (not grass)."

Williams, who went on to win her second Wimbledon crown, is seeking her first Rogers title since 2001 and takes a 13-1 record in Canada into today's match.

Dementieva overcame Stosur's tough combination of a powerful flat delivery previously clocked as high as 199 kilometres an hour and a tricky kick on her second. Free agent NHLer Maxim Afinogenov, Dementieva's boyfriend, watched as she improved to 4-1 lifetime against Stosur.

The other semifinal today will feature Alisa Kleybanova, against either Agnes Radwanski or Maria Sharapova who didn't begin their match until well after 11 p.m., last night.

Kleybanova, 20, and ranked 36th in the world, upset fifth-seeded Jelena Jankovic 6-7 (6-8) 7-6 (9-7), 6-2 in the most entertaining match of the day, three hours and 16 minutes of drama, arguments and swinging momentum.

Jankovic saved five set points in the marathon first set and spent almost as much time challenging -- and often winning -- line calls. In the second set, she fought off set point four times and led 6-5. But this time, Kleybanova finally put her away in the tiebreaker of what she called an "amazing" match.

LANCE.HORNBY@SUNMEDIA.CA


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