Venus rises to Safina’s defence after criticism

LONDON: Venus Williams angrily hit back at suggestions that her 6-1, 6-0 Wimbledon semi-final demolition of world number one Dinara Safina was an embarrassment to women's tennis.

Venus, the five-time Wimbledon champion, took just 51 minutes to beat her Russian opponent in the most one-sided women's semi-final here in 40 years.

The result piled more pressure on both Safina, who has yet to win a Grand Slam title, and the rankings system which sees Venus and sister Serena at three and two in the world respectively despite winning 17 majors between them.

'Are you trying to be down on women's tennis?', she snapped at a journalist who said that the Centre Court mis-match, which followed sister Serena's marathon win over Elena Dementieva, was embarrassing to the women's game.

"I think women's tennis is fantastic. I would never be down on it. I happen to have enormous respect for Dinara.

"I'm not the number one seed so I shouldn't be expected to win but I have more experience playing on grass courts so that helped me." Safina defended her world number one status, claiming her place on top of the rankings is reward for her consistency and success at all tournaments throughout the year and not just the four Grand Slams.

The 22-year-old Russian, who will remain on top next week when the new rankings are released, has finished runner-up at the last two French Opens as well as the Australian Open this year.

"I have reached the semi-finals at least at the last four Grand Slams," said the Russian.

"Venus and Serena didn't make the semi-finals at the French Open. The ranking is all year, tournament by tournament.

"I won in Rome and Madrid this year. I have been very consistent. The rankings are not just the result of the Grand Slam events." Safina committed 16 unforced errors to Venus's one on Thursday and was out-aced 5-0.

But she insists that she can do better if she can get more experience on grass courts.

"She is just too good on grass," said Safina. "This is not my favourite surface. It's disappointing to finish in less than one hour and win only one game.

"She gave me a good lesson today but we only play two tournaments a year on grass. I tried to go for my shots and I like to build points. She can hit winners straightaway." Serena, who saved a match point before booking her place in Saturday's final, said she had sympathy with Safina.

"Venus is not the easiest opponent on grass and she was playing really well," said Serena.

"Dinara is ranked No. 1 in the world. She's worked really hard to get there. She's been really consistent. I don't think anyone should take that away from her."