First Miami final in nine years for Venus

THIRD seed Venus Williams reached the final of the Sony Ericsson Open for the first time in nine years with a comfortable 6-3, 6-4 win over France's Marion Bartoli in Miami yesterday.

Wearing a red 'corset-style' outfit in the bright sunshine, the seven-times grand slam winner was not at her sharpest, but still proved too good for out-of-sorts 13th seed Bartoli.

The American broke serve straight away in a first set containing plenty of errors from both players. After her opponent broke back, Williams responded with a second break thanks to three double-faults. Bartoli then looked poised for a second-set comeback after breaking to go 3-1 up, but Williams broke back immediately with a spectacular cross-court forehand volley and then broke again to clinch victory.

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"If I had been able to play the same way in the first set maybe it would have been different. The second set was really tight," said Bartoli. "In the first set I didn't play that well so I think also for her to be one set up helped her confidence."

Serena Williams, missing the tournament due to injury, watched from the stands as her sister set up a meeting with the winner of the all-Belgian semi-final clash between Kim Clijsters and Justine Henin, which was due to be played late last night.

Venus has won the event three times, but her last appearance in the final came nine years ago when she beat Jennifer Capriati.

"I'm really happy to be back in this final and obviously I want to take it a step further," she said.

In the men's draw, Rafael Nadal will play Andy Roddick in the semi-final after the Spaniard comfortably brushed Jo-Wilfried Tsonga aside 6-3, 6-2.

Nadal took just one-and-a-half hours to dispose of eighth seed Tsonga, who had not dropped a set all tournament heading into the match. Although the eighth seed pushed Nadal all the way, forcing him into saving eight break points – four in each set.

Nadal was in commanding form from the start and, having broken Tsonga's serve in the final game of the first set, swiftly broke for the third time in the match to take firm control. And from a position of 3-0 up in the second set, the No 4 seed never looked back, breaking the Frenchman's serve for a fourth time in the final game.

Roddick, the No 6 seed, once again progressed in straight sets, beating Nicolas Almagro 6-3, 6-3.

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The American has yet to drop a set this tournament and saved two break points to help keep that record alive.

Roddick broke Almagro three times, including the final game, to maintain his chances of reaching his fourth final in six tournament appearances this year.