Top-seeded Henin-Hardenne advances

Posted: Friday, January 23, 2004

MELBOURNE, Australia Top-ranked Justine Henin-Hardenne rallied from a break down in the second set to beat Russian Svetlana Kuznetsova 6-2, 7-5 Friday and advance to the fourth round of the Australian Open.

Henin-Hardenne, the defending Wimbledon and the U.S. Open champion, was broken twice in the second set and trailed 5-3 before breaking back and taking advantage of a flurry of unforced errors by the 18-year-old Kuznetsova to win four consecutive games and the match.

Marat Safin used a string of powerful backhand returns in the last set to beat Todd Martin 7-5, 1-6, 4-6, 6-0, 7-5 and move into the fourth round match against James Blake.

The 3-hour, 25-minute match ended when the 23-year-old Russian whipped a crosscourt return at Martin's feet on his first match point.

Safin was demonstrative throughout the second and third sets as he muttered to himself, slammed his racket into the court and received a code violation for smacking a ball out of the arena.

He settled down in the fourth set, however, while Martin began disputing line calls.

Safin, the 2000 U.S. Open champion and runner-up here in 2002, saw his ranking slump to No. 86 as he struggled with wrist problems last season.

''I felt really good this morning and felt really good out there I'm reaching my goal, but really looking forward to getting better and getting through to the quarters,'' he said.

Blake needed just 75 minutes to beat France's Olivier Patience 6-1, 6-3, 6-2, conceding only one break point as he dropped serve when trying to close the match at 5-0 in the third set.

Otherwise, he was on his game, hitting 41 winners to Patience's 12 and winning 25 of the 30 times he went to the net. He gave Patience only one break-point opportunity.

''This is the farthest I've gone in a Slam, and I want it to continue,'' the 23-year-old Blake said. ''I was really happy with my first-round match, and today I got even better. I feel I played pretty darned well. I like to think it had more to do with me than with him.''

Thailand's Paradorn Srichaphan, seeded 13th, hit 49 winners to beat 19th-seeded Gustavo Kuerten of Brazil 6-3, 7-5, 6-4.

''(He) played two hours of almost perfect tennis. He was right on,'' said Kuerten, a three-time French Open champion and former No. 1.

On the women's side, fourth-seeded Amelie Mauresmo had little trouble beating Anabel Medina Garrigues 6-1, 6-2.

She dropped serve once in the second set and needed treatment for her lower left leg at 3-2. Upon returning, she lost only one point before clinching a fourth-round berth with a drop volley.

Mauresmo has lost just six games in three matches and spent less than three hours on court.

She said muscles around her knee were tight and she wasn't sure what was causing it, although the pain wasn't likely to interfere with her tennis.

Russia's Vera Zvonareva, seeded 11th, beat Nicole Pratt 7-5, 2-6, 6-1; 32nd-seeded Fabiola Zuluaga of Columbia advanced 7-6 (5), 4-6, 6-2 over American Jill Craybas; and Australia's Alicia Molik overcame Claudine Schaul of Luxembourg 6-7 (4), 6-1, 6-2.

Blake and Martin were two of the six American men in action Friday.

Top-ranked Andy Roddick was facing potential Davis Cup teammate Taylor Dent on center court in an evening match; defending champion Andre Agassi was playing longtime rival Thomas Enqvist of Sweden; and Robby Ginepri, seeded 32nd, beat France's Nicolas Escude 6-2, 6-3, 6-4.

In the early match, Blake led 4-0 in the third set and had the crowd at Margaret Court Arena on his side until Patience produced a winner from a reflex half-volley at his feet on the baseline.

Blake applauded that stroke but was a little more concerned two points later when Patience jumped the net as he chased a drop shot.

The hustle seemed to inspire Patience and the crowd. The Frenchman lost that game on serve, but broke Blake in the next game and then held serve to pull to 5-2.

Blake didn't have any problems after that, however, as he cajoled himself to stay focused between serves. He clenched his fist and threw a small punch in the air when he closed out the match.

Martin pumped his arms for a while after firing an ace and then bunting a reflex angled volley to get game point in the final set against Safin.

But Safin replied with a forehand winner down the line to take the game back to deuce and got to match point when a backhand by Martin sailed wide.

On the next point, Safin's backhand return was too good for Martin, who couldn't reach low enough to his left to play it. Safin hit 17 of his 53 winners from the backhand side, mostly on powerful serve returns.

Safin let off some steam, screaming with satisfaction and relief when he hit the final winner.



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