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The cold war ended when teenager Svetlana Kuznetsova was just four years old. But for one day only the old enmity will be revived at Flushing Meadows as Friday's women's semi-finals of the Open pits Russia against the US in both matches. Russian women have already won two of this year's grand slam titles the French Open and Wimbledon and with their strong showing here at the Open, it does appear as if the centre of gravity for the women's game has shifted decisively eastward. But two veteran Americans may beg to differ.
What looks to be the day's most intriguing match matches eighth seed Jennifer Capriati against sixth seed Elena Dementieva. The 28-year-old Capriati is coming off one of the biggest wins of her career, a spellbinding three-set victory over Serena Williams in Tuesday's quarter-final.
Although the match was marred by poor officiating, Capriati played exceptionally well in rallying from one set down to defeat her longtime rival. The question is whether she can avoid the letdown that so often follows such an emotional win. She has plenty of incentive to keep her focus: this may be her last best chance to finally reach a US Open final.
Dementieva, the 22-year-old French Open finalist, booked her place in the semi-finals with a gutsy three-set victory over Amelie Mauresmo. In taking out the second seed Dementieva overcame a sore thigh, an upset stomach, and her own appallingly weak second serve, which sent the ball across the net with the velocity of a shuttlecock. Dementieva has become quite adept at compensating for her liabilities, and assuming her mobility is not restricted in any way, she should give Capriati a very tough challenge.
The other match sees fifth-seeded Lindsay Davenport square off against ninth-seeded Russian Svetlana Kuznetsova. At this juncture, Davenport would have to be considered the tournament favourite.
Since Wimbledon, where she talked of retirement, the 28-year-old former world number one has been on fire. She arrived in Flushing having won her last four events and 17 straight matches. Make that 22: in her quarter-final Wednesday night, Davenport, who has yet to drop a set, was merciless in seeing off Japan's Shinobu Asagoe 6-1 6-1, and is now just two victories away from winning the Open for the second time and reclaiming the number one ranking in the process. The 19-year-old Kuznetsova defeated her compatriot Nadia Petrova in straight sets to reach the semis, but given the opponent and the occasion, it is hard to imagine her getting past Davenport.
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