Davenport in; Venus, Dementieva out

Associated Press

Melbourne, January 24:

Matching power with power, Australia’s Alicia Molik extended Venus Williams’ Grand Slam drought, advancing to the Australian Open quarter-finals with a 7-5, 7-6 victory on Monday.

Tenth-seeded Molik took the court right after Lleyton Hewitt overcame a painful hip to rally for a 7-5, 3-6, 1-6, 7-6, 6-2 victory over unseeded Rafael Nadal, giving the ecstatic crowd a double present two days before Australia Day.

Second-seeded Andy Roddick also advanced to the quarterfinals, firing 15 aces in beating Germany’s Philipp Kohlschreiber, ranked 102nd, 6-3, 7-6, 6-1.

Showing that Hewitt isn’t the only “Aussie battler,” Molik broke eighth-seeded Williams at love to finish off the first set, then fought off five break points in the second and did a layout dive, futilely, for a shot as Williams served at 4-5.

Both players held to force a tiebreaker. Molik jumped to a 4-0 lead, and Williams weakly hit a forehand into the net on match point. Molik next faces Lindsay Davenport, who beat No 13 Karolina Sprem 6-2, 6-2.

Williams was seeking her fifth Grand Slam title and first since winning the 2001 US Open. With sister Serena also plagued by injuries, other players have closed the power gap. Serena reached the quarters here but was near tears over what she called poor play in her fourth-round victory on Sunday. She plays second-seeded Amelie Mauresmo on Tuesday.

It’s the first time that Molik, who stretched her winning streak to 12 matches and won the Olympic bronze in August, has gone this deep in a Grand Slam event, living up to long expectations.

Third-seeded Anastasia Myskina, the French Open champion, and No 6 Elena Dementieva, the losing finalist at the French and US Opens, joined Williams on the sidelines. They were among seven Russians to make it to the round of 16, but only two — Wimbledon champion Maria Sharapova and US Open winner Svetlana Kuznetsova — survived to the quarters. They face each other on Tuesday, when top-ranked Roger Federer tries to keep his 25-match winning streak alive against four-time Australian Open winner Andre Agassi, seeded eighth.

Hewitt needed treatment for his right hip after losing the third set and seemed in deep trouble. Trying to finish points quickly, Hewitt committed five consecutive errors after going ahead 0-40 as Nadal served at 2-3 in the fourth set. But he justified his never-say-die reputation. Hewitt took the tiebreaker 7-3, using his trademark fist pumps and shouts of “Come on!” to get the fans roaring and leave Nadal shaking his head.

Hewitt next faces David Nalbandian, who beat Guillermo Coria 5-7, 7-5, 6-3, 6-0 in an all-Argentinian baseline struggle that lasted 3 hours and 24 minutes.

After three consecutive lefties, second-seeded Roddick had a little trouble with the serve of right-handed Kohlschreiber. In the quarters, he faces Nikolay Davydenko, who earlier beat No 7 Tim Henman and added No 12 Guillermo Canas to his list of conquests on Monday.