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Sharapova advances to semifinals



Published: Tue, January 25, 2005 @ 12:00 a.m.



Wimbledon champ rallied for three-set win; Venus Williams eliminated.

MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) -- Wimbledon champion Maria Sharapova overcame the heat and U.S. Open winner Svetlana Kuznetsova 4-6, 6-2, 6-2 today to advance to the semifinals at the Australian Open.

On Monday, Venus Williams' Grand Slam drought continued. Facing three match points, she stumbled chasing a ball, and her off-balance forehand flopped into the net, giving Alicia Molik a 7-5, 7-6 (3) upset in the fourth round.

Kuznetsova failed to hold any of her last eight service games after winning the first set and gave the 17-year-old Sharapova a match point with a double-fault, her fourth of the all-Russian quarterfinal.

Sharapova, whose screeching increased with every shot, whipped a running forehand crosscourt winner to close out the match in 2 hours, 17 minutes.

"I need a wheelchair right now," said Sharapova, on the verge of exhaustion. "Just mentally, I tried to tough it out."

Heat a factor

Both players struggled in Melbourne's hot summer conditions, taking a 10-minute break between the second and third sets and putting ice packs and wet towels on their necks and shoulders.

The temperature at the start of the match was 87 degrees and rose to 91 degrees, but a warm, dry wind made it feel hotter on center court.

"It was so hot -- on the court it's very, very hot," said Sharapova. "I just try to concentrate on what I have to do ... block it out. But it was one of the toughest (matches) of my life."

Kuznetsova finished with 53 unforced errors and got less than half of her first serves into play, giving Sharapova plenty of chances to pounce on the second serves.

Sharapova made almost half of her 37 unforced errors in the last set.

Five of the eight games in the last set went to deuce, with 12 break points converted.

Sharapova upset Serena Williams, the then two-time defending champion, in the last Wimbledon final. She was the fourth-youngest winner of a Grand Slam title in the Open era.

Venus' star fading

Venus Williams hasn't been past the quarterfinals at the past six Grand Slam tournaments.

"I feel like that was one I definitely should have won. I just was off my rhythm," the eighth-seeded Williams said. "I definitely didn't produce my best tennis, that's for sure."

She made 28 unforced errors, two more than the 10th-seeded Molik, who faces top-ranked Lindsay Davenport in the quarterfinals. Davenport cruised past No. 13 Karolina Sprem 6-2, 6-2 and has dropped just one set in four matches.

Molik is the first Australian woman in the Open quarterfinals since Anne Minter in 1988.

Two other top women lost Monday: French Open champion Anastasia Myskina and No. 6 Elena Dementieva, the runner-up at the French Open and U.S. Open.

In men's action, No. 2 Andy Roddick, No. 3 Lleyton Hewitt, No. 9 David Nalbandian and No. 26 Nikolay Davydenko moved into the quarterfinals.

The third-seeded Myskina had 45 unforced errors in her 6-4, 6-2 loss to No. 19 Nathalie Dechy, a 25-year-old Frenchwoman in the quarterfinals of a major for the first time in 37 appearances.

Dementieva led 12th-seeded Patty Schnyder by a set and two breaks before losing 6-7 (6), 7-6 (4), 6-2 in a match marred by 116 unforced errors.

Roddick struggled with the serve of Germany's Philipp Kohlschreiber but smacked 15 aces and overcame a second-set letdown to win 6-3, 7-6 (8), 6-1.

Hewitt overcame a sore right hip to beat unseeded Rafael Nadal 7-5, 3-6, 1-6, 7-6 (3), 6-2.




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