Venus in quarters by beating Pratt

Published: Sunday, January 19, 2003 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Sunday, January 19, 2003 at 1:53 a.m.

MELBOURNE, Australia - Venus Williams had her latest opponent sprawling and sighing, and she stayed on course for a fourth straight Grand Slam final against her sister Serena.

Venus surged into the Australian Open quarterfinals Sunday by defeating Nicole Pratt 6-3, 6-2 in 1 hour, 17 minutes.

Venus had to save 11 break points and committed 33 errors, but she offset them with 35 winners.

Serena, the world's top-ranked player and winner of the last three majors, plays her fourth-round match Monday against 18th-seeded Eleni Daniilidou of Greece. Serena missed last year's Australian with an ankle injury before beating Venus in the title matches at the French Open, Wimbledon and U.S. Open.

Pratt, an Aussie ranked 54th, had the center court crowd behind her as she strained to reach every ball against Venus.

In the fourth game, Williams caught her sitting back on her heels with a forehand blast right at her as Pratt charged the net. In the seventh game, Pratt sprawled wide to return a serve and scrambled up too late to reach Williams' next shot.

Several times when Pratt thought she had a point, Williams hit a winner past her on an all-out sprint.

Heading into the tournament's second week, Williams said that ``maybe the first week is harder. Players come out against me, feel loose and relaxed and play good tennis. At least in the second week, I know what's coming.''

She said Pratt scrambled well and returned some balls she didn't expect, but that she had anticipated a tough match from the Australian.

``It was her first appearance in a (Grand Slam) round of 16. She's thinking, 'Why not go farther?'' I was thinking the same thing,'' Williams said.

Williams also said one of her goals this year is to attack the net more often.

``I think I'm most successful when I'm at the net when I take advantage of my reach,'' she said.

Next up is No. 7 Daniela Hantuchova, who reached her third consecutive Grand Slam event quarterfinal with a 7-5, 6-3 victory over No. 12 Patty Schnyder.

Hantuchova also went all out, spraying 39 errors while hitting 27 winners. She was helped by 27 misses by Schnyder, who had won three of their five previous meetings.

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