Like two tornadoes on a collision course, Venus Williams and Martina Hingis treated the top 10 players in their paths like lawn furniture tonight, dismantling them piece by piece until there was nothing left but splinters. Working through the quarterfinals of the WTA Tour's season-ending Chase Championships, Williams defeated seventh-ranked Barbara Schett, 6-4, 7-6 (7-2), in a match that wasn't nearly as close on the court as it was on the scoreboard, while Hingis took apart No. 5 Mary Pierce, 6-1, 6-2. The two will meet Saturday in a semifinal rematch of their fiery U.S. Open bout.
"It's going to be a very interesting match, I think," Hingis said. "She won her matches kind of overlooking--well, I don't think she played that great, but she always played what she needed to. I just have to take advantage if she's not going to play her best."
Hingis will retain her status as the world's No. 1 player no matter what the outcome of this tournament. Williams could move from No. 3 to No. 2 if she wins, although when she and Hingis meet on Saturday they will be thinking more about pride than rankings. At Flushing Meadows in September, Hingis maneuvered her way past Williams, 6-1, 4-6, 6-3, in an exhausting semifinal; Williams came back and defeated Hingis the next two times they played. While the two have also engaged in plenty of verbal sparring, their personalities--each peppered with blazing confidence and a sharp sense of humor--are more similar than their games.
Williams often relies on her power, and tonight was no exception as she delivered nine aces and a bucketful of service winners. Schett, who has had a career year, did her best to retrieve the balls Williams rocketed all over the court, but she managed just one break point and wasn't even able to convert it. Making things more difficult for the young Austrian was that Williams seemed to summon more and more energy throughout the match, even hurdling the net midway through the second-set tiebreaker when it was time for the players to change sides.
"I didn't feel like going around," Williams said later, laughing. "It seemed like such a long way."
Hingis was just as energetic at the start of her match, barely seeming to notice that Pierce was on the court. She maintained her advantage by breaking Pierce early in the second set, but Pierce, who came from behind to defeat Anna Kournikova on Monday, began fighting back with Hingis leading, 3-2. She threatened to even the set several times forcing two break points and erasing three of Hingis's game points.
But in the end, Pierce was reminded of what she already knew: there is a reason why Kournikova, who has still never won a tournament, can be cracked and Hingis, who has won five Grand Slams, usually cannot. Hingis held serve and then cruised through the rest of the match.
To battle falling victim to a similar fate on Saturday, Williams said she intends to hit the ball a lot harder than she did against Hingis at the U.S. Open.
"After that match, I felt I should have just been striking the ball," Williams said, noting that at 6 feet 1, she has a strong height advantage over the 5-7 Hingis. "So after that, I changed, and things haven't been the same since then."
But Hingis said she will be ready for Williams's power, certainly more ready that Schett was today.
"My return is a little bit better than Barbara's, I think I can say that, and I hope everybody agrees with me," Hingis said.