Venus, Henin-Hardenne reach Aussie quarters

Posted: Sunday, January 19, 2003

MELBOURNE, Australia -- Venus Williams had Nicole Pratt sprawling and sighing.

Justine Henin-Hardenne was in pain and fearing she was finished.

Both advanced to the quarterfinals of the Australian Open on Sunday as Henin-Hardenne came back from 1-4 and a late painful cramp to beat Lindsay Davenport 7-5, 5-7, 9-7 in 3 hours, 13 minutes.

Williams stayed on course for a fourth straight Grand Slam final against sister Serena by beating Pratt 6-3, 6-2 in 1:17.

Venus had to save 11 break points and committed 33 errors, but she offset them with 35 winners.

Henin-Hardenne, the fifth seed, went all out to win her battle with the American Davenport, who was seeded ninth.

''I thought I was going to die but I played it with my heart and just went for it,'' said Henin-Hardenne, the 2001 Wimbledon runner-up.

In the next-to-last game, ''I was cramping and then I thought the match was over for me.''

Henin-Hardenne took advantage of her own speed and her opponent's errors to take the first set and go up 4-1 in the second.

But Davenport won 10 of the next 12 games, moving to a 4-1 lead in the final set. After Henin-Hardenne broke serve three times for 5-all -- rebounding from 40-15 in the in the eighth game -- Davenport saved a match point in the 14th and reached 7-all.

Then, serving at 0-15, Henin-Hardenne fell to the court, holding her left leg. After treatment, she came back and served an ace, held for 8-7 and then broke Davenport again, winning with an inside-out forehand serve return.

It was her first victory in six meetings with Davenport, a former No. 1 who has won three majors, including the 2000 Australians.

She next plays Spain's Virginia Ruano Pascual, a 6-3, 6-3 winner over Czech player Denisa Chladkova.

Venus Williams now faces a quarterfinal against No. 7 Daniela Hantuchova, who extended her to three sets in the third round last year, and a possible semifinal against Henin-Hardenne.

Hantuchova, a 19-year-old from Slovakia, beat No. 12 Patty Schnyder 7-5, 6-3.

Serena, the world's top-ranked player and winner of the last three majors, plays her fourth-round match Monday against 18th-seeded Eleni Daniilidou of Greece. Serena missed last year's Australian with an ankle injury before beating Venus in the title matches at the French Open, Wimbledon and U.S. Open.

Pratt, an Aussie ranked 54th, had the center court crowd behind her as she strained to reach every ball against Venus.

In the fourth game, Williams caught her sitting back on her heels with a forehand blast right at her as Pratt charged the net. In the seventh game, Pratt sprawled wide to return a serve and scrambled up too late to reach Williams' next shot.

Several times when Pratt thought she had a point, Williams hit a winner past her on an all-out sprint.

Heading into the tournament's second week, Williams said that ''maybe the first week is harder. Players come out against me, feel loose and relaxed and play good tennis. At least in the second week, I know what's coming.''

She said Pratt scrambled well and returned some balls she didn't expect, but that she had anticipated a tough match from the Australian.

''It was her first appearance in a (Grand Slam) round of 16. She's thinking, 'Why not go farther?'' I was thinking the same thing,'' Williams said.

Williams also said one of her goals this year is to attack the net more often.

''I think I'm most successful when I'm at the net when I take advantage of my reach,'' she said.

Pratt berated herself for failing to convert game points, but added: ''She stepped it up. She hit some great shots at times I thought I played almost the perfect point.''

Venus later joined Serena in a third-round doubles match, and the top-ranked sisters defeated Martina Navratilova and Svetlana Kuznetsova 6-2, 6-3.

Hantuchova, who reached her third consecutive Grand Slam event quarterfinal, went all out in her match, spraying 39 errors while hitting 27 winners. She was helped by 27 misses by Schnyder, who had won three of their five previous meetings.

Noting that she nearly beat Williams last year, Hantuchova said, ''Maybe I needed more experience at the time and that's something I feel I have now. That's why I feel ready and very optimistic about this match.''

On the men's side, No. 4 Juan Carlos Ferrero, the French Open runner-up, advanced with a 6-0, 6-3, 6-2 victory over 18-year-old Mario Ancic of Croatia.



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