Venus Williams in Wimbleon semifinals

LONDON, July 2 (UPI) -- Top seed and defending champion Venus Williams barely broke a sweat Tuesday in advancing to the semifinals at the Wimbledon tennis championships.

For nearly everyone else, it almost was impossible to stay dry.


Williams inched closer to her third consecutive Wimbledown crown Tuesday with a 6-2, 6-0 dismantling of Russian Elena Likhovtseva at a rain-soaked All-England Lawn and Tennis Club.

All that stands in the way of Williams advancing to the finals for the sixth time in her last nine Grand Slam events is sixth seed Justin Henin of Belgium.

Henin edged fourth seed Monica Seles, 7-5, 7-6 (7-4) in a hard-fought match and earned a chance to avenge her loss to Williams in last year's finals.

Williams, one of three American women in the final six, improved to 8-0 all time against Likhovtseva, who had never gotten past the fourth round in nine previous appearances here.

"I'm just trying to keep my unforced error count down and play more solid every round," Williams said. "When it happens like it did today, it's very nice. I had to produce most of the shots and put a lot of pressure on her."

Williams is seeking to become the first female to win three straight titles here since Steffi Graf did it from 1991-1993.

"I found with any grand slam you have to play aggressively," Williams added. "You really have to step up and take it to your opponent. You can't just sit back and wait and hope that they miss. Because I tried that and it just didn't work."

Henin won a battle of attrition with Seles, who failed in her quest to win the only Grand Slam title that has eluded her.

Henin lost to Williams, 6-1, 3-6, 6-0, in last year's final.

"For sure it was a great experience to play Venus here last year," Henin said. "Now, it's going to be a different situation. It's not going to be a final. She didn't play top players in this tournament. So maybe I have a little advantage but she's playing so well. She won so easy in her matches so I know it's going to be difficult."

One women's fourth-round match was completed before the skies opened up. American Jennifer Capriati rebounded from a disastrous second set on Monday to defeat unseeded Elena Daniilidou, 6-1, 3-6, 6-1.

Capriati improved to 4-1 in her career against Daniilidou, who was making her second appearance here. Capriati, who has reached the semifinals here twice, is seeking her fourth Grand Slam title.

On the men's side, two fourth-round matches from Monday took place with one player getting through before the rain halted play.

No. 27 Xavier Malisse of Belgium and No. 23 Greg Rusedski of Britain played the fifth set of their marathon with Malisse advancing, 3-6, 6-3, 3-6, 6-3, 6-4.

Malisse, 21, became the first Belgian to reach the Wimbledon quarterfinals since 1924. He has never won a title on grass and is appearing in the quarterfinals of a Grand Slam event for the first time in his career.

Rusedski's departure puts additional pressure on No. 4 seed and hometown hero Tim Henman of Britain, who faces unseeded Brazilian Andre Sa on Wednesday.

Tuesday's other men's match -- between wild card Mark Philippoussis and unseeded Richard Krajicek was halted after four sets. The match, halted after Krajicek took the fourth set, 7-6 (7-2), 6-7 (4-7), 7-6 (7-1), 6-7 (5-7), will be completed Wendesday.

Krajicek and top seed Lleyton Hewitt of Australia are the only players left on the men's side ever to win a Grand Slam title.

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