Pete Sampras is going for a record-tying 12th Grand Slam tournament title. Venus Williams is seeking her first.

Both are right on target in the U.S. Open.Sampras and Williams solved the swirling winds in Arthur Ashe Stadium and stayed on course with surprisingly easy victories Wednesday.

"With the conditions, it wasn't fun to play," Sampras said. "Wasn't the best of tennis. I got through it. That's the main thing."

The top-seeded Sampras set up a semifinal match against defending champion Patrick Rafter with a 6-3, 7-5, 6-4 victory over No. 9 Karol Kucera. Rafter advanced earlier in the day with a 6-2, 6-3, 7-5 win over No. 12 Jonas Bjorkman.

Williams needed three sets to get past Arantxa Sanchez-Vicario, who added a hyphen to her last name and a third French Open title this year. But after dropping the first set, Williams had no problems winning 2-6, 6-1, 6-1 to complete the women's semifinal pairings.

A finalist last year, Williams will meet No. 2 Lindsay Davenport in Friday's semis. Davenport gained a berth by pounding No. 13 Amanda Coetzer 6-0, 6-4.

The other women's semifinal will pair 1997 winner and top seed Martina Hingis against reigning Wimbledon champion Jana Novotna.

The men's semifinals were scheduled to be completed today. No. 10 Carlos Moya faced Magnus Larsson in a day match, while two unseeded players, Sweden's Thomas Johansson and hard-serving Mark Philippoussis of Australia, meet tonight.

Sampras gained a measure of revenge against Kucera, who beat the world's top player in the quarterfinals at this year's Australian Open.

"I always remember my losses," Sampras said. "He picked me apart down in Australia. I was probably a little bit more on my toes tonight than I was in Australia."

Sampras presented too many problems for Kucera. The top seed had 13 aces and had 48 winners, compared to 27 winners for the Slovakian who eliminated Andre Agassi a day earlier.

Two more victories, and Sampras will tie Roy Emerson with 12 Grand Slam tournament singles crowns.