LONDON -- Ignore the rankings. Ignore recent form. Remember this: You never can count a Williams out.
That's the lesson Venus Williams is providing at Wimbledon, precisely the way her younger sister Serena did at the Australian Open six months ago.
Out of the top 30, never so much as a semifinalist at any Grand Slam event over the past two years, Venus moved a victory away from her fourth title at the All England Club by outclassing No. 6 Ana Ivanovic of Serbia, 6-2, 6-4, in yesterday's semifinals.
"Something about us -- no matter what we're ranked, no matter where we are, no matter what the next person says -- ultimately, we just believe in ourselves," the elder Williams said, "and I think that's what makes the difference."
In her sixth Wimbledon final, the 27-year-old American will find a surprising opponent on the other side of the net today: Marion Bartoli of France, who came back from a set and a break down to stun No. 1 Justine Henin, 1-6, 7-5, 6-1.
Before this year, the lowest-ranked female finalist at the grass-court Grand Slam was Williams, who was at No. 16 when she won the 2005 championship.
This time, it's No. 31 Williams vs. No. 19 Bartoli.
Things went much closer to form in the men's quarterfinals, when the rain that's plagued the tournament finally went away and the sun was out all day. Four-time defending champion and No. 1-seeded Roger Federer meets 14th-ranked Richard Gasquet -- who upset No. 3 Andy Roddick -- and No. 2 Rafael Nadal faces No. 4 Novak Djokovic in today's semifinals.
Federer downed Juan Carlos Ferrero, 7-6 (7-2), 3-6, 6-1, 6-3; Nadal topped Tomas Berdych, 7-6 (7-1), 6-4, 6-2; and Djokovic outlasted Marcos Baghdatis, 7-6 (7-4), 7-6 (11-9), 6-7 (3-7), 4-6, 7-5.
Mostly healthy after missing the start of the year with a bad wrist, Williams got to nearly everything Ivanovic offered and went from defense to offense in a blink. It put her on the brink of a sixth Grand Slam title, which would tie Henin for second among active women behind -- guess who? -- another Williams.
Serena Williams won major No. 8 in January at the Australian Open after entering the tournament ranked 81st, a run her big sister said inspired her.
"I've been counted out so many times. And it's OK with me," Venus said.
On the men's side, not only does Federer take a 52-match winning streak on grass into his semifinal, but he also had the advantage of having played a little more than 1 1/2 hours yesterday in his rain-suspended match against Ferrero and walking off court before 3:30 p.m.
That was in contrast to Djokovic, who played for five hours -- five minutes shy of the longest one-day singles match in the tournament's 130-year history -- before pulling out the victory over Baghdatis.