Davenport and Sharapova closing in on final

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Top seed Lindsay Davenport and title-holder Maria Sharapova are on course for a Wimbledon showdown as both reach the quarter-finals…

Sharapova once again was all business expending the minimum of effort in disposing of France’s Nathalie Dechy 6-4, 6-2.

Davenport had a much tougher time of it being stretched to three sets by Belgium’s Kim Clisters before winning through 6-3, 6-7 (4/7), 6-3.

The American, seeking her first Grand Slam triumph in five years at the age of 29, plays US Open champion Svetlana Kuznetsova for a place in the semi-finals after the Russian saw off Magdalena Maleeva of Bulgaria 6-4, 6-3.

Sharapova, who has won her last 21 games on grass, goes up against fellow Russian Nadia Petrova.

The other quarter-finals oppose French third seed Amelie Mauresmo against Russian ninth seed Anastasia Myskina with Mary Pierce of France, seeded 12th, taking on twice former winner Venus Williams of the United States, who is seeded 14th this year.

The Davenport-Clijsters clash produced the best tennis of the women’s tournament so far with the American unleashing the full array of her punishing groundstrokes and serving as well as she has done for months.

Clijsters resisted athletically scampering from side-to-side and regularly producing her trademark splits as she stretched to get Davenport’s missiles.

She saved a match point at 4-5 down in the second and took the tie into a deciding set, but the barrage continued and Clijsters eventually cracked.

"I stuck to my game plan to keep the points short and to go for my shots and eventually it paid off," she said.

"I was ticked off about not finishing it off in the third but I was able to calm down and come out play my best tennis in the third set."

Sharapova took half a dozen games to adjust her sights and then she coolly downed the experienced Dechy in straight sets.

At just 18 she said that the big difference between this year and 12 months ago, when she stunned the tennis world by crushing Serena Williams in straight sets, was the experience she had gained.

"Last year I was happy to be in the second week of a Grand Slam. This year I expected to be in the second week of a Grand Slam," she said.

On quarter-final opponent Petrova, Sharapova said: "Played her a long time ago. Big game, big serve. It’s going to be another tough match."

The oft-injured Petrova reached the quarter-finals of the French Open last month and to achieve the same feat at Wimbledon, she had to save a match point against the unseeded Kveta Peschke of the Czech Republic before winning 6-7 (5/7), 7-6 (9/7), 6-3

France were ensured two representatives in the last eight with Mauresmo defeating Russian 13th seed Elena Likhovtseva 6-4, 6-0 and Pierce coasting past Italy’s Flavia Pennetta 6-1, 6-3.

Mauresmo, a semi-finalist here last year, said that she had needed time to refind her rhythm after a two-day break due to no play being scheduled for Sunday and the courts becoming slower.

"But I know what my game is now. I know what my weapons are on these courts," she added.

Pierce at the age of 30 has staged an unexpected revival in her career this year reaching the final of the French Open earlier this month where she lost to Justine Henin-Hardenne.

She has maintained her newfound form at Wimbledon reaching the last eight for only the second time in her career after 1996 with Venus Williams next up.

"The last time we played was at the Olympics last year on hard courts and I won," she said. "Venus is an excellent player on grass and we know each other’s game really well."

Williams avenged her younger sister Serena by defeating compatriot Jill Craybas 6-0, 6-2 and said that she was aiming to notch up her level of tennis match by match.

"I have had some close sets and I am able to step it up a gear, especially if I get a high percentage of first serves in," she said.