Thursday, January 16, 2003

Serena marches on Down Under

The Associated Press

MELBOURNE, Australia - Serena Williams was back in "Serena slam" form Thursday. After nearly losing her opener, Williams advanced to the Australian Open's third round with a 6-4, 6-0 victory over Belgian Els Callens, who gave the world's No. 1 player a tough challenge at Wimbledon last year.

Williams now is five matches away from becoming the reigning champion of all four major tournaments.

Her potential semifinal opponent, No. 4 Kim Clijsters, advanced with a 6-0, 6-0 victory over Hungary's Petra Mandula in 33 minutes. It was the first perfect scoreline of the tournament.

No. 9 Andy Roddick, being counted on as a successor to Pete Sampras and Andre Agassi in American tennis, overpowered Romania's Adrian Voinea 6-2, 6-2, 6-2.

Czech player Radek Stepanek, who climbed from 547th to 63rd in the rankings last year, knocked out three-time French Open champion Gustavo Kuerten, who never has advanced beyond the second round in the Australian Open. Stepanek won 5-7, 6-3, 7-5, 4-6, 6-3 in 3 hours, 47 minutes.

Kuerten, seeded 30th, became the 13th casualty among the 32 seeded men. The top 10, however, is missing only No. 5 Carlos Moya, a 3-6, 7-6 (8), 6-4, 4-6, 6-2 loser to American Mardy Fish on Wednesday night.

Third-seeded Marat Safin, the 2000 U.S. Open champion and last year's Australian runner-up, advanced by beating France's Albert Montanes 6-3, 4-6, 6-4, 6-1. No. 6 Roger Federer defeated Germany's Lars Burgsmuller 6-3, 6-0, 6-3.

Last year, an injury on the eve of the Australian Open ruined Williams' chance for a true Grand Slam - winning all four majors in the same calendar year. She went on to beat sister Venus Williams in the finals at the French Open, Wimbledon and U.S. Open.

A rash of errors left Williams on the verge of defeat before she rallied to edge France's Emilie Loit on Tuesday. This time, she said she was inspired by Venus' 6-3, 6-0 victory over Ansley Cargill the previous night.

"She played a great match," Serena said of her sister. "I was motivated after watching her, thinking, `OK, she wants to be No. 1 again."'

Serena faced two break points in her first service game, but she then broke Callens at 15 in the fifth game by hitting winners or forcing errors. Callens, ranked 66th, managed to hold serve twice more in the first set but had no answer for Williams' power.

Williams needed two tiebreakers to beat her in the third round at Wimbledon.

In the opener here, she acknowledged being "a little too lackadaisical" against Loit. She vented her frustration in that match with an audible obscenity, for which she was fined $1,500 on Thursday.

She had few troubles this time. She hit 21 winners to Callens' eight and had 19 errors to Callens' 20.

"I have five more matches to go. It's going to be really tough," Williams said, noting that Clijsters and No. 6 Monica Seles are in her half of the draw.

Seles beat Venus in the quarterfinals here last year. Clijsters beat both sisters on her way to winning the WTA Tour Championships in November.

As for playing against her sister, Serena said, "We've gotten use to it. If it comes to the final, at least we've both reached our maximum potential."

Serena next plays No. 26 Tamarine Tanasugarn, a 6-2, 3-6, 6-3 winner over Russian Alina Jidkova.

In other men's matches, Spain's Alberto Martin ousted No. 13 Fernando Gonzalez 6-7 (5), 6-3, 6-1, 7-6 (4).

Wimbledon runner-up David Nalbandian, seeded 10th, beat Australian qualifier Jaymon Crabb 6-1, 7-6 (10), 6-3, No. 18 Younes El Aynaoui defeated Uzbek qualifier Vadim Kutsenko 6-2, 6-1, 6-4, and No. 20 Xavier Malisse beat France's Anthony Dupuis 6-3, 5-7, 7-6 (6), 7-5.

No. 23 James Blake beat Argentina's Jose Acasuso 6-1, 6-4, 6-4; No. 31 Rainer Schuettler ousted 1996 Wimbledon champion Richard Krajicek 6-3, 7-5, 6-4; Spain's Feliciano Lopez defeated American Robby Ginepri 6-2, 6-4, 6-2; and Swedish qualifier Andreas Vinciguerra advanced when Austrian Julian Knowle retired with a torn right calf. Vinciguerra was leading 6-2, 0-1.

On the women's side, No. 10 Chanda Rubin beat Mary Pierce for the first time in four meetings. Rubin, who missed the first four months of 2002 because of knee surgery, won 0-6, 6-4, 6-2 against Pierce, the 1995 Australian and 2000 French champion.

No. 11 Magdalena Maleeva beat South Korean Cho Yoon-jeong 2-6, 6-4, 6-1.

No. 14 Anna Pistolesi advanced when Slovenia's Maja Matevzic retired with a right lower leg strain. Pistolesi was leading 5-1.

No. 16 Nathalie Dechy beat Czech player Daja Bedanova 6-3, 6-3, No. 18 Eleni Daniilidou beat American Amy Frazier 6-1, 6-2, No. 20 Elena Bovina defeated Italy's Rita Grande 6-1, 6-2, and No. 25 Meghann Shaughnessy beat Slovakia's Ludmila Cervanova 6-1, 6-1.

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