Quarterfinal round claims both of Williams sisters

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

MELBOURNE, Australia -- Venus Williams followed her sister Serena out of the Australian Open in the quarterfinals, both in losses to Serbian players.

Venus went down 7-6 (3), 6-4 to fourth-seeded Ana Ivanovic today, one day after defending champion Serena lost to No. 3 Jelena Jankovic.

Ivanovic, who had never taken a set off Williams in four previous contests, is into the semifinals for the third time at a Grand Slam and next faces first-timer Daniela Hantuchova, who beat Agnieszka Radwanska 6-2, 6-2 in Wednesday's other quarterfinal.

Jankovic will meet No. 5 Maria Sharapova in Thursday's semifinals. Sharapova ended top-ranked Justine Henin's 32-match winning streak with a 6-4, 6-0 win Tuesday.

Hantuchova had not been to the second week of a Grand Slam tournament since her quarterfinal exits at three consecutive majors, ending with a loss to Venus Williams in the Australian Open in 2003.

"It feels great. I kept fighting for every point, even in matches I wasn't playing very well," she said. "I kept believing I could do it, and here I am."

Williams was in the second week at Melbourne Park for the first time since '03, when she lost to her sister in the final.

She squandered a break in the second set and had double-break point in the last game before Ivanovic reeled off four straight points to advance.

Serena Williams slumped 6-3, 6-4 on Tuesday to Jankovic, who reached the semifinals at Melbourne Park for the first time and only the third time in a major.

Serena Williams was unseeded and ranked No. 81 when she made her stunning run to a third Australian and eighth Grand Slam title here 12 months ago, punctuating that with an emphatic 6-1, 6-2 win over Sharapova in one of the most lopsided Grand Slam finals.

That loss stung Sharapova, who wants to make amends this year.

"Even though I beat Justine, it's definitely not over," she said. "I still have a lot of business to take care of."

Sharapova, who struggled with a shoulder problem for most of last season, started returning to her best at the WTA championships in November before losing in three sets to Henin in 3 hours, 24 minutes -- among the dozen longest women's tour matches in the Open era.

She turned the tables in only 1:38 on Tuesday, inflicting the first 6-0 set on Henin since 2002.

"I really felt like I was in a bubble," No. 5 Sharapova said. "I think it was one of the most consistent matches where I did all the things I wanted to do, and I did them correctly from the beginning to the end ... and just played the way I can play."

Another Serbian player has a chance of making the semis, with No. 3 Novak Djokovic playing David Ferrer of Spain in the men's semifinals.

Defending champion Roger Federer went against No. 12 James Blake later today.

Blake is 0-7 against Federer, who beat him in the 2006 U.S. Open quarterfinals.

But he's taking heart from Federer's last two matches, when he was taken to 10-8 in the fifth set against Serbia's Janko Tipsarevic and had to save set points against Tomas Berdych.

No. 2 Rafael Nadal, the only player to beat Federer at the last 10 Grand Slams, advanced to his first Australian Open semifinal with a 7-5, 6-3, 6-1 win over No. 24 Jarkko Nieminen of Finland.

"Maybe I wasn't playing my best match, my best tennis today, but it was enough," the three-time French Open champion said. "It's a good moment for me, first semifinals on hard court, Grand Slam."

He will play 22-year-old Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, who beat No. 14 Mikhail Youzhny 7-5, 6-0, 7-6 (6) late Tuesday.

The 38th-ranked Tsonga has only played four previous majors due to a combination of back, shoulder and abdominal injuries and never won a title at the elite level, but has already upset No. 9 Andy Murray and No. 8 Richard Gasquet so far at Melbourne Park with his high-energy game.

After an impressive first four rounds, Serena Williams looked sluggish and her serve misfired against Jankovic, contributing to seven service breaks.

She had time to reflect on the singles loss when she combined with Venus in a 3-6, 6-4, 6-2 doubles quarterfinal loss to Chinese pair Yan Zi and Zheng Jie.

"I think that I went crazy, maybe, and I made a lot of mistakes. I didn't really play the game I wanted to play," Williams said, adding that she had some physical issues she didn't want to elaborate on. "I don't like to make excuses. We won't discuss those.

"I lost because Jelena played better than me and I made too many errors -- I think regardless, the match was on my racket, and I gave it away."

Jankovic has been hampered by a thigh problem since helping Serbia to the Hopman Cup final, where it lost to the Serena Williams-led United States.

She needed treatment during her first-round match here, when she had to save three match points, and again against Williams.

"I'm like a wounded animal. I still keep going," she said, adding for emphasis that she had a point to prove following a fourth-round loss to Williams here last year.

"Getting revenge, it feels so good," Jankovic said.

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