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Venus outguns Sharapova
- Davenport leads Mauresmo as rain halts play

London: Lleyton Hewitt will ignore recent history and undertake the seemingly impossible task of defeating defending champion Roger Federer in the Wimbledon semi-finals on Friday.

Venus Williams out-slugged champion Maria Sharapova to reach her fifth Wimbledon final with a 7-6, 6-1 victory on Centre Court on Thursday. Matches were delayed for four-and-a-half hours because of rain.

Showing the kind of form which won her the title here in 2000 and 2001, Venus tamed her tough 18-year-old Russian opponent in a hard-fought semi-final. Venus, seeded 14th, won the first set on a tiebreak after an exhilarating rally before racing away with the second set which she took when Sharapova blazed a shot wide.

In the other semi-final, Lindsay Davenport was leading Amelie Mauresmo 6-7, 7-6, 5-3 when rain forced another stoppage.

Federer has won his last seven encounters with the Australian third seed and is on a 34-game winning streak on grass, but Hewitt is promising a Centre Court battle worthy of the final itself.

From the way Im hitting the ball, (there are) little areas that I think I might have a slight advantage, said the unfazed 24-year-old.

Youve got to believe in yourself. I believe Im capable of winning the match. Its not going to be easy, and Ive got to play one of my best matches that Ive got. But I believe that I can do it.

Hewitt is still miffed by the fact that he has to play Federer in the semi-finals. The 2002 Wimbledon champion is the third seed despite being ranked No. 2 in the world. It is the first time since 1989 that the top two in the world rankings have met in the Wimbledon semi-finals.

Its a strange situation. I dont know how many times it would have happened that the top two ranked players would be playing in a semi-final in a slam. I would definitely like it to have been the final, obviously. But for me it will be like playing a final, going out there.

Its a huge opportunity. I do like playing the big matches when theres a lot of emotion out there, a great atmosphere.

Come Friday, its going to be no different.

Federer, chasing a hattrick of Wimbledon crowns, beat Hewitt in four sets in the quarter-finals last year but the 23-year-old will not under-estimate the Australian.

Hes beaten me enough to believe in his chance, said the Swiss, who only leads their overall head-to-head 9-8.

Second seed Andy Roddick is likely to be awaiting the winner. The American faces 30-year-old Swede Thomas Johansson, whom he beat in the second round at Wimbledon in 2001. (Reuters)

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