Like a schoolgirl cramming for a final -- a Wimbledon final, she hopes -- Venus Williams cribs notes to herself that she sneaks peeks at during matches.
"I think it makes me play better," said Williams, who also jots down lines from songs to help her relax.
It must be working, because her learning curve on grass is soaring sharply in only her second trip to Wimbledon, landing her Tuesday in the quarterfinals for her biggest test yet against two-time finalist Jana Novotna.
Joining them in Wednesday's quarters are defending champion Martina Hingis vs. French champion Arantxa Sanchez Vicario; No. 2 Lindsay Davenport against No. 16 Nathalie Tauziat; and No. 6 Monica Seles against Natasha Zvereva.
Williams showed her budding grass-court mastery in a 6-3, 6-1 rout of Virginia Ruano-Pascual, the Spanish woman who beat her little sister, Serena.
"I wanted to win every point, all the points that Serena couldn't win yesterday," Williams said. "I didn't like it that she came back to 4-3. I thought that was really negligent on my part. So I had to get serious and make sure that she didn't get too many more games."
The 18-year-old sliced and slugged with equal control, punched solid volleys and flicked deft drop shots and lobs. She did everything a player should do on gras as she revealed an all-court game that could make her a serious title threat either this week or in the not-too-distant future. A first-round loser in her debut last year, she's played better and more confidently with every match the past week.
The surest sign that Williams is ready to challenge for the championship came after Tuesday's match, when she said that no matter how well she seemed to play, and no matter the score, she still wasn't satisfied. She criticized herself for moments of inconsistency, but was pleased with the way she attacked the net more frequently.
"I'm trying to get as serious as possible," Williams said. "I want to have every point. I think that I should deserve every point, and not the other person. If I want to win something like this, I'm going to have to work for it. It's not just going to come. The people that win the Slams are the people that work the hardest. ... It all starts right now. There has to be a point when you make up your mind that you're going to do something."
Novina, who has come so close to winning Wimbledon only to lose leads in the final twice, raised an eyebrow at Venus and Serena Williams' cocky attitude toward winning.
"I guess that's the way the young American kids are brought up nowadays," said Novotna, a 6-2, 6-3 winner over Irina Spirlea.
Hingis overcame a sleepy start in a 6-3, 6-2 victory over Thailand's Tamarine Tanasugarn, setting up a match against Sanchez Vicario, who downed Belgium's Dominique Van Roost 3-6, 6-3, 6-2.
"I had to wake up 8:30-9 for a 10 o'clock practice," said Hingis, whose match started unusually early at 11 a.m. on Court 2, the storied "graveyard of champions." "Everything was kind of fast in the morning. I was still sleeping in practice."
The men's quarters, also on Wednesday, were set with defending champion Pete Sampras going against Mark Philippoussis, 1996 champion Richard Krajicek taking on Italy's Davide Sanguinetti, two-time finalist Goran Ivanisevic playing Jan Siemerink, and Petr Korda meeting Tim Henman.
Sampras, who hasn't dropped a set so far, served his 13th and 14th aces to finish off French qualifier Sebastien Grosjean 6-3, 6-4, 6-4.
"To start a match and complete a match in one day was nice," said Sampras, whose previous match spanned four days.
Sampras wore a brace on his left knee for the first time to relieve soreness in the back of the knee. Krajicek, who beat Wayne Ferreira 6-3, 6-3, 7-5, hyperextended a knee when he slipped at the end of the second set.
"I slipped, and then my knee bent the other way," Krajicek said. "I overstretched it, and I just felt a sharp pain in my knee, basically on my scar from my operation. It's not the tendon. It's something inside the knee, and sometimes I've got an unbelievably sharp pain. It's not comfortable, and I've no idea what it is."
Krajicek rolled through the first two sets, then struggled in the third set after the injury.
"I was basically serving with one leg," he said. "That's why I lost my aim and hit more double faults. And it was also a little bit of a mental thing. I just didn't really want to go for the volleys any more."
Krajicek didn't know whether the injury might limit him in the quarters, or even cause him to default.
?"If this stiffens up and gets worse, I don't know what's going to happen in the next match," he said. "But I'm lucky that there was another invalid on the court and he couldn't serve and that I won it in straight sets.
"In a way, I hope maybe it's raining tomorrow. But in another way, I hope that if I can play well, I can win and then have a day off on Thursday and it might help me for Friday's match. I don't know if it's a threat or not. But it's not feeling very good at the moment."
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