Underdogs snap but form book rules at Australian Open

Agence France Presse

Melbourne, January 20:

The top seeds maintained their relentless march into the later rounds of the Australian Open on Thursday despite some persistent snapping from the underdogs. Second seed Andy Roddick, third seed Lleyton Hewitt and women’s world number one Lindsay Davenport dropped sets before reaching the third round, while Venus Williams and Anastasia Myskina were also given some awkward moments.

But upsets have been thin on the ground. At the end of day four, only one top 10 seeded player from both the men’s and women’s draws had been eliminated. Hewitt came through a nail-biting encounter with unseeded American James Blake 4-6, 7-6, 6-0, 6-3 to keep his dream alive. Hewitt now plays Argentina’s 25th-seed Juan Ignacio Chela in the last 32 on Saturday, staying on course for a semi-final with American Roddick, who beat Britain’s Greg Rusedski 6-0, 3-6, 6-2, 6-3. In other ties, Britain’s seventh seed Tim Henman made sure of his place with a 7-5, 6-1, 6-4 defeat of Romania’s Victor Hanescu.

The 18th seed Nicolas Massu of Chile limped out injured while Spanish Rafael Nadal produced a stirring fightback to beat Russian 15th seed Mikhail Youzhny 6-1, 4-6, 4-6, 7-5, 6-3. Massu retired from his contest with German Philipp Kohlschreiber while trailing 6-0, 2-0.

Argentine Guillermo Canas advanced over Spaniard Fernando Verdasco 3-6, 7-5, 6-3, 6-0 and Spain’s Juan Carlos Ferrero accounted for Argentine Mariano Zabaleta. Davenport came from a set down to defeat Michaela Pastikova of the Czech Republic 2-6, 6-2, 6-2 to book her place in the third round alongside Myskina, who beat Israel’s Tzipora Obziler 6-4, 6-2.

Russia’s third-seeded Myskina was similarly slowly away, trailing 1-3 in the first set, before pulling clear. Myskina now plays American Lisa Raymond on Saturday.

Venus Williams overcame the challenge from Peng Shuai of China to record a 6-3, 6-1 to reach the third round, where she will face Israeli Anna Smashnova, seeded 27. Peng gained the early advantage, breaking in the opening game when Williams netted. But Williams broke back immediately in a lengthy second game before asserting her authority to advance.

In other action, Russian sixth seed Elena Dementieva — a beaten finalist in the French and US Opens last year — was a comfortable 6-2, 6-1 victor over compatriot Anna Chakvetadze.

Last year’s beaten semi-finalist Patty Schnyder, seeded 12, was made to sweat before quelling the challenge of Netherlands’ Michaella Krajicek, winning 3-6, 6-3, 6-4. But France’s Russian-born teenager Tatiana Golovin, seeded 20th after reaching the quarter-finals here last year, was bundled out by American Abigail Spears, losing 7-5, 6-1.