Agence France Presse

Key Biscayne, March 28:

Slovakian Dominik Hrbaty made sure that Australian Open champion Marat Safin’s run of mediocre Key Biscayne showings continued, handing the third-seeded Russian a straight-set third-round defeat in the NASDAQ-100 Open. Safin, who has done little to impress since winning his second career Grand Slam title in January, managed to fight back from 5-2 down in the opening set to force the tiebreaker, but floundered in the second set en route to a 7-6, 6-1 defeat. In the fourth round, Hrbaty faces French wildcard Gael Monfils, 18, who beat South Korean Hyung-Taik Lee 7-6, 3-6, 7-6. Safin, the only player to beat Swiss world number one Roger Federer this year, had been trying to make it past the quarter-finals of this event for the first time. On a day when Federer was idle, Safin wasn’t the only seed to fall.

Sweden’s Thomas Johansson ousted fifth-seeded Spaniard Carlos Moya 7-6, 3-6, 6-2. And Spain’s David Ferrer ousted eighth-seeded David Nalbandian of Argentina 7-6, 6-1.

Meanwhile, women’s top seed Amelie Mauresmo progressed in her effort to improve on her record in Key Biscayne as all of the top eight women advanced. The French world number two posted a 6-2, 6-1 victory over Israel’s Anna Smashnova, matching her previous best performance in four appearances here — a fourth-round showing in 2003. Second seed Maria Sharapova advanced with ease, beating American Marissa Irvin 6-2, 6-0. Sharapova moved toward a possible semi-final showdown with Grand Slam rival Serena Williams, the three-time defending champion who settled down to defeat 17-year-old Israeli qualifier Shahar Peer 6-3, 6-3.

Joining Mauresmo and Sharapova in the fourth round were fourth seed Elena Dementieva, No 5 Anastasia Myskina and No 6 Svetlana Kuznetsova, all of Russia, along with seventh-seeded Australian Alicia Molik and No 8 seed Venus Williams. Dementieva beat Bulgarian veteran Magdalena Maleeva 6-3, 6-4, Kuznetsova, the reigning US Open champion, beat Madagascar’s Dally Randriantefy 6-1, 6-3, and Molik downed Argentina’s Gisela Dulko 3-6, 6-3, 6-4 to earn a tough fourth-rounder against former world number one Justine Henin-Hardenne, who beat Spain’s Nuria Llagostera Vives 6-3, 6-2. Another Belgian former world number one, Kim Clijsters, beat France’s Nathalie Dechy 6-0, 6-2 to book a shot at Myskina.