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AUSTRALIAN OPEN Aussie favorite falls in quarters



Published: Wed, January 26, 2005 @ 12:00 a.m.



Lindsay Davenport ousted Alicia Molik in a thrilling three-set match.

MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) -- Top-ranked Lindsay Davenport advanced to the Australian Open semifinals, overcoming local hope Alicia Molik 6-4, 4-6, 9-7 in the quarterfinals today.

Davenport twice served for the match, in the 10th game and at 8-7, when she saved two break points before holding on to close with a powerful forehand that Molik couldn't reach.

"There were a lot of ups and downs out here," Davenport said. "I'm not sure how I'm standing here.

Davenport had a match point at 5-4 in the third set but Molik broke back, with some help from the net and then a ripping forehand winner down the line.

Davenport lost only one point in her next two service games and then broke in the 15th game. She had a break point on Molik's serve at 30-40 and 7-7, but the Australian served consecutive aces and had a third called out by a line judge.

Davenport won the next three points to hold the break and capitalized in the next, after falling behind 15-40.

She saved her second break point with a classic serve and volley and was on top for the rest of the game, finishing it off in 2 hours, 33 minutes.

Dechy is next

Davenport will next meet 19th-seeded Nathalie Dechy of France, who rallied back to beat Patty Schnyder 5-7, 6-1, 7-5.

Davenport struggled with her serve at times against Molik, misfiring with 11 double-faults, including one on set point in the second set.

But she had 14 aces and salvaged two break points with aces on her second serve.

Davenport, who had been contemplating retirement last season before surging to the No. 1 ranking, won the last of her three Grand Slam titles at the 2000 Australian Open.

Molik had been in the fourth round of a major once -- at the last Australian Open -- and was the first Australian woman to advance so far in the national championship since 1988.

Molik, who ended last year at No. 11, won three titles at the end of 2004 and added the Sydney International title earlier this month.

Davenport withdrew from the Sydney tournament with bronchitis after pulling out of the Hopman Cup earlier this month to give herself more time to recover from a knee problem.

After Molik lost the first set, the capacity crowd at Rod Laver Arena tried to lift their hometown favorite. They waved both Australian and 'boxing kangaroo' flags as chants of "Aussie, Aussie, Aussie" rang out around the center court stadium.

Federer ousts Agassi

Top-ranked Roger Federer had a lot less trouble advancing, playing so perfectly that he made Andre Agassi look average on Tuesday.

Defending champion Federer beat the eight-time major winner 6-3, 6-4, 6-4 in the quarterfinals, taking the punch right out of the best counter-puncher on the circuit.

Federer hit 22 aces and extended his winning streak to 26 matches. He's also won 24 in a row against opponents ranked in the top 10.

That would be fourth-seeded Marat Safin, who lost to Federer in last year's Australian Open final and will face him this year in the semifinals. Safin ousted No. 20 Dominik Hrbaty 6-2, 6-4, 6-2.

The other men's quarterfinals are No. 2 Andy Roddick vs. No. 26 Nikolay Davydenko, and No. 3 Lleyton Hewitt vs. No. 9 David Nalbandian.

Serena Williams once won four straight majors -- from the 2002 French Open through the 2003 Australian Open -- but she hasn't played that well lately. She'll face Maria Sharapova in the Australian semifinals in a rematch of last year's Wimbledon final.

Williams eliminated No. 2 Amelie Mauresmo 6-2, 6-2, while Sharapova was on the verge of exhaustion when she clinched a 4-6, 6-2, 6-2 over U.S. Open champion Svetlana Kuznetsova in 2 hours, 17 minutes in the baking sun.




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