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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Safin, Williams Progress in New York

APSafin returning Wednesday to Zabaleta of Argentina during the Russian`s straight-set quarterfinal victory at the U.S. Open.
NEW YORK -- The men's and women's defending champions, Marat Safin and Venus Williams, advanced to the semifinals of the U.S. Open with convincing wins Wednesday.

Safin, the No. 3 seed from Russia, is looking for his first title of the year. He breezed past 103rd-ranked Mariano Zabaleta of Argentina 6-4, 6-4, 6-2 in a match played in swirling winds.

Williams, joining her sister Serena in the round of four, battered French Open finalist Kim Clijsters of Belgium 6-3, 6-1 in just 65 minutes.

Safin next plays four-time champion Pete Sampras on Saturday.

During a postmatch on-court interview, Safin said he's not good enough to beat him.

"I don't want to look ridiculous on the court," he said later with a sly smile. "So I need some excuse in the beginning."

Safin has reached just one final this season after grabbing a tour-best seven in 2000. He's fought problems with his back, which held up nicely when tested Wednesday.

With Zabaleta serving at 1-1, 30-30 in the third set, Safin raced to the baseline to track down a shot and, with his back to the net, swung the racket through his legs to rifle a return. Zabaleta, though, calmly volleyed the ball into the open side of the court for a winner.

In the next game, Safin dived -- well, flopped -- to his right to reach for a volley. The knee-scraping effort, alas, resulted in the ball hitting the net.

Those two lost points didn't threaten to derail Safin, who let out a few customary loud yells of displeasure during the match.

Williams will next face No. 2 Jennifer Capriati, a 6-3, 6-4 winner over No. 8 Amelie Mauresmo. The other semifinal will pair two former champions Martina Hingis, the top seed, and No. 10 Serena Williams.

Clijsters, seeded fifth, never really got into the match and often seemed an onlooker as Williams cruised to her sixth consecutive Grand Slam semifinal.

The Belgian hit a few spectacular dropshots but struggled with her serve and baseline play most of the time.

The players combined for 81 unforced errors -- 43 by fourth-seeded Williams -- and 14 double-faults.

The difference? Williams managed to find the range often enough to produce 21 winners, to just five for the fifth-seeded Belgian.

Earlier Wednesday, Lleyton Hewitt powered past an erratic and frustrated Tommy Haas in a rain-suspended match to reach the quarterfinals.

The No. 4-seeded Hewitt, a semifinalist last year, used his laser-like strokes and impressive court coverage to beat the 16th-seeded German 3-6, 7-6 (7-2), 6-4, 6-2 in a match that started Tuesday.

In what shapes up as a marquee matchup between two up-and-coming stars, the 20-year-old Hewitt, from Australia, was set to play 19-year-old American Andy Roddick on Thursday for a spot in the semis.