Venus gains fourth round

Posted: Friday, January 17, 2003

MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) -- Venus Williams gained plenty of experience in playing out of trouble.

Another former No. 1, Lindsay Davenport, looked comfortable again on the court.

Williams, winner of four Grand Slam events and runner-up to sister Serena in the last three, trailed 1-4, 0-40 in the second set before beating Anca Barna 6-1, 6-4 Friday to reach the Australian Open's fourth round.

Davenport hit winners even off-balance as she kept Tatiana Panova on the run and won 6-2, 6-1 in 53 minutes.

Despite problems with wildness, the often dejected-looking Williams needed only 17 more minutes to win. She raised her fist in the air and jumped up and down.

In danger of falling behind 1-5, she saved three break points with a forehand volley, an ace and a deep backhand that Barna could not handle. She double faulted twice in the final game before overpowering the German, ranked 69th, with a crosscourt backhand.

''I feel better with every match,'' Williams said. ''In the first set, I played very well. In the second, she lifted the level of her game. She started getting a lot of balls back and I started missing.

''At 4-1, I decided to miss a lot less,'' she added.

Williams is seeded second behind her sister, meaning they could only meet in the final. Serena missed last year's Australian Open with a twisted ankle, but then beat Venus in the championship matches at the French and U.S. Opens and Wimbledon.

''Last year was a tough year,'' Venus said. ''I was always mentally and physically tired. I was always going the extra mile to do my best.''

When she plays Serena, she added, ''there are no mind games. I've never seen where they can be successful.''

She next meets Australian Nicole Pratt, who beat No. 23rd-seeded Paola Suarez of Argentina.

Davenport, winner of three majors including the 2000 Australian, was hanging her head during much of her match Wednesday, when she had to rally from 3-1 in the final set to beat 57th-ranked Iroda Tulyaganova of Uzbekistan.

This time, ''I played exactly the way I wanted to play, which was attacking a lot of balls and going for my shots. Today they were falling in,'' said the 26-year-old American.

''Sometimes when you struggle through a match and maybe don't play your best, there is somewhat of a load taken off your shoulders. The next time you play you feel a lot more free on the court,'' she added.

Davenport missed most of last year after knee surgery in January and is seeded ninth here.

''I don't know when was the last time I was out of the top four seeds,'' she said. ''I still feel like I belong at the top of the game.''

Davenport next plays No. 5 Justine Henin-Hardenne, who beat No. 32 Katarina Srebotnik 6-2, 6-0.

''It's nice to be the underdog ... semi-underdog,'' Davenport said. ''I don't think I've ever lost to her.''

Meanwhile, Spain's Virginia Ruano Pascual won 6-1, 4-6, 6-4 against Germany's Marlene Weingartner, who knocked out defending champion Jennifer Capriati in the first round.

No. 12 Patty Schnyder defeated Russian Nadia Petrova 6-2, 4-6, 6-3.

On the men's side, No. 12 Sebastien Grosjean, a semifinalist here in 2001, beat No. 24 Nicolas Lapentti 6-1, 6-3, 6-3.

Mario Ancic, an 18-year-old Romanian who is the youngest player surviving in the draw, defeated Australian wild card Peter Luczak 2-6, 7-6 (2), 6-4, 6-2.

Argentina's Guillermo Coria won 7-5, 6-2, 6-2 over Finland's Jarkko Nieminen, who had beaten 1999 champion Yevgeny Kafelnikov in the previous round.

On Thursday, Monica Seles made a surprisingly early exit from the Australian Open. It's still not clear when she'll leave the Grand Slam stage altogether.

Hampered by an ankle injury, Seles lost to 113th-ranked Klara Koukalova of the Czech Republic 6-7 (6), 7-5, 6-3 in the second round. It's the first time Seles won't reach at least the quarterfinals of the major she's won four times.

''I was in bad pain; it's an ankle sprain,'' the sixth-seeded Seles said. ''I knew I was in trouble. I tried to fight it out there, but she was just too good.''

The 29-year-old Seles owns nine major titles but hasn't reached a Grand Slam final since the 1998 French Open.

Two young American men hoping for their first real splash at a major reached the third round with victories Wednesday: Andy Roddick and James Blake.

No. 9 Roddick overpowered Romania's Adrian Voinea 6-2, 6-2, 6-2, and No. 23 Blake beat Argentina's Jose Acasuso 6-1, 6-4, 6-4.

Lleyton Hewitt, a 21-year-old who already has ended the last two seasons at No. 1, brushed aside fellow Australian Todd Larkham 6-1, 6-0, 6-1.

On the women's side, Kim Clijsters needed just 33 minutes to beat Hungary's Petra Mandula 6-0, 6-0. After beating both Williams sisters in the WTA Tour Championships last November, she is considered one of the most likely to stop Serena's effort to win a fourth consecutive Grand Slam tournament.

Williams stayed on track for a Serena Slam by beating Belgian Els Callens 6-4, 6-0.

After her first-round win, Seles said she was ''at the very happy stage in my career where my body is still letting me play.''

Apparently, she spoke too soon.

She rolled her left ankle trying to change direction when she was wrong-footed by Koukalova in the third game of their match.

After getting treatment from the trainer while she sat on the court, Seles moved to the changeover chairs to have the ankle strapped and get some painkillers.

Seles said Koukalova forced her to run and, ''I was just a step slower. I couldn't change directions.''

Koukalova sealed the win with a drop shot, before raising both arms in triumph. This is her first foray into Grand Slam tennis.

''I'm very happy. I couldn't believe I actually won,'' Koukalova said. ''Monica is a top-10 player, so it's unbelievable.''

The 20-year-old Koukalova lost in the second round of qualifying here last year. Thursday's win will lift her into the top 100 for the first time.

The loss was a blow for Seles, who beat Venus Williams in the quarterfinals here last year before losing to Martina Hingis in the semis.



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