Williams sisters stay on track

Semi showdown looms for siblings as Federer and Djokovic advance at Australian Open.

    Venus advances to set up a potential semi-final showdown with sister Serena [AFP]
    The Williams sisters continued their march at the Australian Open, with back-to-back performances that left the siblings firmly in contention for another Grand Slam singles title in Melbourne.

    Defending Australian Open champion Serena Williams, who has 11 major singles titles, overpowered Petra Kvitova of the Czech Republic 6-2, 6-1.

    Venus, who has seven, defeated Austrian Sybille Bammer 6-2, 7-5 in the Hisense Arena.

    Top-seeded Roger Federer beat Victor Hanescu 6-2, 6-3, 6-2 in a night match at the Rod Laver Arena attended by Prince William, second in line to the British throne and who is on an Australian visit.

    Royal fans

    Federer lost last year's Australian final to Rafael Nadal, who plays his third-round match on Friday.

    Federer acknowledged Prince William in the crowd after the match.

    "Your Royal Highness, welcome to the world of tennis. Thanks for coming,'' Federer said.

    Only one Williams can make it through to the final on January 30 – and they face a potential showdown in the semi-finals if they advance that far.

    If their performances on Thursday were anything to go by, it's a good chance they will.

    Serena, who has won the Australian Open every odd-numbered year since 2003, was more dominant, completing her match in just over an hour and converting four of her 11 break-point chances.

    "I feel if I play well, I can beat anybody,'' Serena Williams said.

    The seven-times grand slam winner Venus, said after her victory against Bammer that she rarely does any homework on her future opponents and does not even devise any specific tactics to negate their strengths.

    "For the most part, my approach is really to try to execute my game," Williams said.

    "Obviously it's important to know how your opponent plays," she suggested rather oxymoronically.

    "I haven't given it any thought yet. My plan is just to focus on my game."

    A perplexed media pack followed up the statement, which the world number six then clarified that she really only figured out how her opponent was playing shortly before the game.

    "In the five minute warm up you figure out what they're doing. You gotta figure it out quick and be smart about it."

    Williams, who next plays either Croatian Karolina Sprem or local favourite Casey Dellacqua in the third round, then also said she was not overly concerned about how she was playing.

    "I don't necessarily put a lot of importance on if I played well one day or not. It's really about obviously winning the match and then improving for the next day.

    "So if I have a good day or not as good a day, I just put that behind me and get ready for the next match.

    Ivanovic out

    Ana Ivanovic, the 2008 Australian Open finalist and French Open winner the same year, never found her rhythm. She extended her run of poor results in a second-round 6-7 (6), 7-5, 6-4 loss to Gisela Dulko of Argentina.

    Since her French Open win, she has failed to get past the fourth round of a major six times.

    US Open finalist Caroline Wozniacki of Denmark advanced 6-3, 6-1 over Julia Goerges of Germany and will next play No29 Shahar Peer of Israel, who beat Tsvetana Pironkova of Bulgaria 6-1, 6-4.

    Wozniacki could meet Venus Williams in the quarterfinals.

    Other women to advance were No7 Victoria Azarenka of Belarus, No9 Vera Zvonareva of Russia, No10 Agnieszka Radwanska, No16 Li Na of China and No32 Carla Suarez Navarro of Spain.

    Djokovic enjoyed the special memories of the Rod Laver arena [GALLO/GETTY]
    Slow start

    Novak Djokovic had a slow start against Switzerland’s Marco Chiudinelli before advancing 3-6, 6-1, 6-1, 6-3.

    Tenth seed Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, who lost the 2008 final to Djokovic, had a 6-4, 6-3, 6-3 win over American Taylor Dent.

    "This court is most special because I won my only Grand Slam here,'' the 22-year-old Djokovic said of Rod Laver Arena, where he beat Federer in the semi-finals en route to the 2008 title.

    "It has the nicest possible memories.''

    Djokovic said he fell into an early trap against Chiudinelli.

    "I just became too defensive ... just waiting for his mistakes,'' Djokovic said.

    "But I managed to make that transition from being defensive to being offensive and changing pace and holding the game in control in the second and third set.''

    He will next play Uzbekistan's Denis Istomin, who beat Michael Berrer of Germany 7-5, 6-3, 6-4.

    Davydenko win

    Sixth-seeded Nikolay Davydenko had a 6-3, 6-3, 6-0 win over Ukraine qualifier Illya Marchenko.

    Marcos Baghdatis, the 2006 finalist, struggled with cramping late in his match but held on to beat No17 David Ferrer of Spain 4-6, 3-6, 7-6 (4), 6-3, 6-1.

    Baghdatis will face former No1-ranked Lleyton Hewitt, who had a 7-6 (3), 6-4, 6-1 win over American Donald Young.

    Hewitt and Baghdatis's last meeting at the Australian Open was another third round encounter in 2008, a five-set marathon that had both players slugging it out until after 4:30 a.m.  the tournament's latest ever finish.

    The 22nd seeded Australian won the match but Baghdatis, who rallied to defeat Spain's David Ferrer earlier on Thursday, avenged the loss in a hard-fought three-set win at the Sydney International last week.

    "We've played each other three times. It's not quite like Nadal-Federer just yet," Hewitt, wearing the Australian flag on his sleeve, said after defeating Young 7-6 6-4 6-1.

    "I know what to expect. He's in good form and hitting the ball extremely clean. He's gonna be feeling confident after winning last week."

    "Knocking off David Ferrer in five sets isn't easy either," said Hewitt, who was beaten in another hard-fought clash by the Cypriot at the quarter finals in Wimbledon in 2006.

    Two-time grand slam champion Hewitt's last major tilt at his home major was in 2005 when Marat Safin beat him in the final, but the Australian still dreams of hoisting the trophy despite the growing toll of age and injuries.

    No9 Fernando Verdasco, who played the longest match in the tournament's history before losing to fellow Spaniard Nadal in the semi-finals last year, advanced to the third round with a 6-1, 6-2, 6-2 win over Ivan Sergeyev of Ukraine.

    Colombia's Alejandro Falla had a 6-4, 6-1, 6-3 win over Marcel Granollers and will play another Spaniard in the next round - No26 Nicolas Almagro beat Germany's Benjamin Becker 6-4, 6-2, 3-6, 4-6, 6-3.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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