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Serena Williams, Sharapova advance

Posted: Wednesday, January 19, 2005


  Serena Williams of the United States plays a return during her second round match against Dally Randriantefy of Madagascar at the Australian Open Tennis Championships in Melbourne, Wednesday Jan. 19, 2005. Williams won the match 6-3, 6-1. AP Photo/Steve Holland

Serena Williams of the United States plays a return during her second round match against Dally Randriantefy of Madagascar at the Australian Open Tennis Championships in Melbourne, Wednesday Jan. 19, 2005. Williams won the match 6-3, 6-1.

AP Photo/Steve Holland

MELBOURNE, Australia — Serena Williams cruised through the second round of the Australian Open on Wednesday, while Maria Sharapova struggled against Lindsay Lee-Waters and the heat before winning 4-6, 6-0, 6-3.

Williams lost only seven points in the second set in a 6-3, 6-0 victory over Dally Randriantefy of Madagascar.

The seventh-seeded Williams didn't drop a point on serve in the second set until the final game when she made two unforced errors. She set up match point with a curling forehand winner and ended the match in 48 minutes with her sixth ace.

''I definitely tried to step my game up,'' said Williams, who hit 38 winners and only 18 unforced errors.

My form ''is definitely getting better and better with each match,'' she added. ''I hit a lot of winners against a girl that actually gets a lot of balls back. So I was excited.''

Williams is trying to recapture the form that made her the 2003 Australian Open champion. That victory completed her personal Grand Slam of four consecutive majors. She missed last year's tournament because of a knee injury.

''I'm feeling really good physically. I'm really proud of how I'm doing,'' she said, seemingly reinforcing local betting figures that make her favorite to win the tournament.''

Williams will play 18-year-old Sania Mirza, a 6-2, 6-1 winner over Petra Mandula, in the next round. Mirza, playing in her first major, is the first Indian woman to make the third round of a Grand Slam tournament.

Sharapova, a 17-year-old Russian star who beat Williams in the last Wimbledon final, needed six match points to beat Lee-Waters.

Sharapova had two in the eighth game of the deciding set and three on serve before Lee-Waters hit a forehand long to end the match in 1 hour, 47 minutes.

Sharapova, so desperate to finish the match quickly that she switched hands to play a scrambling forehand from the leftside two points from the end, raised both arms in the air after the win.

She committed 44 unforced errors, mostly in the first set, and looked exhausted.

The temperature rose to almost 95 degrees at Melbourne Park, and Sharapova needed to run a bag of ice over her neck and shoulders between games.

Lee-Waters, who has a 4-year-old daughter and was nominated as the WTA Tour's ''Most Impressive Newcomer'' in 1995, kept up the heat with a slice backhand that had her younger rival scrambling.

''It was too good from her side in the first set, but I was letting her dictate,'' Sharapova said. ''Finally I said to myself 'you have to keep fighting, no matter what.' I've had some tough matches against her, but today was the hardest.''

U.S. Open champion Svetlana Kuznetsova, one of Russia's two other major champions, showed no sign of the off-court drama that has been shadowing her, needing just 40 minutes to beat Marion Bartoli of France 6-2, 6-0.

Her only scare came when she nearly did the splits while needlessly chasing down Bartoli's forehand on her first match point. She followed with her seventh ace to finish the match.

Kuznetsova was forced to deal with a doping charge Tuesday. She joined WTA Tour CEO Larry Scott in a sharp rebuke of Belgian regional sports minister Claude Eerdekens, who said the Russian player tested positive for the stimulant ephedrine during a charity event last month. While the common ingredient in cold medicine is on the banned list during competition, it's not off-limits during the offseason.

One Russian hope went out and another remained in contention when ninth-seeded Vera Zvonareva, with 11 double-faults, lost 6-3, 6-3 to compatriot Vera Douchevina.

Second-ranked Amelie Mauresmo, the Olympic silver medalist and Australian runner-up in 1999, overcame poor serving in the first set and reeled off the last 10 consecutive games in a 2-6, 6-1, 6-0 win over 18-year-old Dinara Safina.

In other women's matches, Evgenia Linetskaya of Russia was a 6-0, 6-2 winner over Martina Sucha, and Li Na beat 28th-seeded Shinobu Asagoe 6-3, 6-4.

On the men's side, French Open champion Gaston Gaudio overcame Olympic silver medalist Mardy Fish 2-6, 6-4, 7-5, 7-6 (4), and Belgium's Olivier Rochus had a 6-1, 6-3, 6-3 win over Gael Monfils, an 18-year-old Frenchman who won three of the four junior majors last season.

Tommy Robredo, seeded 13th, advanced, while 16th-seeded Tommy Haas was upset 5-7, 2-6, 6-2, 7-6 (5), 6-3 by Slovakia's Karol Beck. Beck said he deliberately played drop shots to work Haas around when he noticed his German rival cramping in the heat.


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