Sharapova moves into semifinals

Published: Tuesday, January 25, 2005 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, January 25, 2005 at 12:59 a.m.
MELBOURNE, Australia - Wimbledon champion Maria Sharapova overcame the heat and U.S. Open winner Svetlana Kuznetsova 4-6, 6-2, 6-2 Tuesday to advance to the semifinals at the Australian Open.
Kuznetsova failed to hold any of her last eight service games after winning the first set and gave the 17-year-old Sharapova a match point with a double-fault, her fourth of the all-Russian quarterfinal.
Sharapova, whose screeching increased with every shot, whipped a running forehand crosscourt winner to close out the match in 2 hours, 17 minutes. She dropped her racket and flung both arms in the air.
''I need a wheelchair right now,'' said Sharapova, on the verge of exhaustion. ''Just mentally, I tried to tough it out.''
Both players struggled in Melbourne's hot summer conditions, taking a 10-minute break between the second and third sets and putting ice packs and wet towels on their necks and shoulders. Each constantly walked into the small patches of shade on the edges of Rod Laver Arena.
The temperature at the start of the match was 87 degrees, and rose to 91 degrees, but a warm, dry wind made it feel hotter on center court.
''It was so hot - on the court it's very, very hot,'' said Sharapova. ''I just try to concentrate on what I have to do ... block it out. But it was one of the toughest (matches) of my life.''
Kuznetsova finished with 53 unforced errors and got less than half of her first serves into play, giving Sharapova plenty of chances to pounce on the second serves.
Sharapova made almost half of her 37 unforced errors in the last set.
Five of the eight games in the last set went to deuce with 12 break points converted.
Sharapova seemed to be struggling the most, leaning on her racket and hanging her head, then coming out to try to convert the heat into steam in her shots. Kuznetsova often found herself waiting to serve while Sharapova slowly made her way to return.
People in the crowd used fans, towels and caps to keep the sun at bay.
Sharapova upset Serena Williams, the then two-time defending champion, in the last Wimbledon final. She was the fourth-youngest winner of a Grand Slam title in the Open era.
Williams, who faced second-ranked Amelie Mauresmo in another quarterfinal, could earn a rematch against Sharapova with a win.
On Monday, Venus Williams' Grand Slam drought continued. Facing three match points, she stumbled chasing a ball, and her off-balance forehand flopped into the net, giving Alicia Molik a 7-5, 7-6 (3) upset in the fourth round.
A group of women in the crowd of 14,225 unfurled a banner reading: ''Venus, you've been eclipsed.''
But she didn't see it that way, even if she hasn't been past the quarterfinals at the past six Grand Slam tournaments.
''I feel like that was one I definitely should have won. I just was off of my rhythm,'' the eighth-seeded Williams said. ''I definitely didn't produce my best tennis, that's for sure.''
She made 28 unforced errors, two more than the 10th-seeded Molik, who faces top-ranked Lindsay Davenport in the quarterfinals.
Davenport cruised past No. 13 Karolina Sprem 6-2, 6-2 and has dropped just one set in four matches.
Molik is the first Australian woman in the Open quarterfinals since Anne Minter in 1988.
Two other top women lost Monday: French Open champion Anastasia Myskina and No. 6 Elena Dementieva, the runner-up at the French Open and U.S. Open. In men's action, No. 2 Andy Roddick, No. 3 Lleyton Hewitt, No. 9 David Nalbandian and No. 26 Nikolay Davydenko moved into the quarterfinals.
Later Tuesday, No. 1 seed Roger Federer will try to keep his 25-match winning streak alive against four-time Australian Open winner Andre Agassi.
The third-seeded Myskina had 45 unforced errors in her 6-4, 6-2 loss to No. 19 Nathalie Dechy, a 25-year-old Frenchwoman in the quarterfinals of a major for the first time in 37 appearances.
Dementieva led 12th-seeded Patty Schnyder by a set and two breaks before losing 6-7 (6), 7-6 (4), 6-2 in a match marred by 116 unforced errors.
Williams lost 13 games through three straight-set wins before facing Molik and thought she was in decent form.
Roddick struggled with the serve of Germany's Philipp Kohlschreiber but smacked 15 aces and overcame a second-set letdown to win 6-3, 7-6 (8), 6-1.
He next faces Davydenko, who beat No. 12 Guillermo Canas 6-3, 6-4, 6-3.
Hewitt overcame a sore right hip to beat unseeded Rafael Nadal 7-5, 3-6, 1-6, 7-6 (3), 6-2.
Hewitt said the hip, injured at a warmup tournament in Sydney, should not affect him in his next match, against Nalbandian in a rematch of the 2002 Wimbledon final. Nalbandian beat No. 6 Guillermo Coria 5-7, 7-5, 6-3, 6-0 in an all-Argentine baseline struggle that ended just after 2 a.m. Tuesday.

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