Davenport ousted in quarters


Published: Wednesday, January 25, 2006 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, January 25, 2006 at 12:00 a.m.
MELBOURNE, Australia - It has become an all-too-familiar feeling for Lindsay Davenport.
The top-seeded Davenport extended her Grand Slam title drought to six years with a 2-6, 6-2, 6-3 Australian Open quarterfinal loss to Justine Henin-Hardenne on Tuesday.
"To get out there and play well, then slowly get worse as the match went on - it's a bad feeling to have when you leave," the 29-year-old American said.
After winning the Australian Open in 2000, Davenport slipped out of the top 10, talked about retiring, then revived her career by regaining the No. 1 ranking and making finals here and at Wimbledon last year.
But the constant throughout the past six years has been a failure to add to her three major championships.
She took on a new coach, Dave DiLucia, for this season and said Tuesday "there's obviously still a lot of stuff that I need to get better."
"I guess I've got the opportunity now the next few months to try and make those improvements," she said, "give it another shot in another few months."
Davenport joined defending champion Serena Williams on the sideline - they met in the 2005 Australian Open final.
Three women who weren't here a year ago are among those now chasing the title - Belgians Henin-Hardenne and Kim Clijsters were out with injuries last year, and three-time winner Martina Hingis was retired.
The eighth-seeded Henin-Hardenne's win over Davenport was not shocking. The reigning French Open champion has beaten Davenport in all three of their meetings at Melbourne Park, including the fourth round in 2003 and the quarterfinals in 2004, when she went on to beat Clijsters for the title.
Henin-Hardenne's semifinal opponent will be 2004 Wimbledon champion Maria Sharapova, who ousted fellow Russian Nadia Petrova 7-6 (6), 6-4 after fighting off two set points in an error-strewn tiebreaker.
Clijsters plays Hingis, and WTA Championship winner Amelie Mauresmo takes on Patty Schnyder in quarterfinals today, with the winners facing off in Thursday's semis.
Clijsters and Mauresmo both have a chance of replacing Davenport atop the rankings. Clijsters has to reach the final; Mauresmo has to win the title and have Hingis defeat Clijsters in the quarterfinals.
Davenport said losing her top ranking is inevitable, and that winning a fourth major remains her focus.
"Even though tonight maybe I took a step backwards, I still feel like I'm in the right direction," she said. "I wouldn't stay out here and I wouldn't give it my all if I didn't feel like it was still reachable."
In men's play, fourth-seeded David Nalbandian has no chance of taking Roger Federer's No. 1 ranking at this tournament - but he's aiming for back-to-back wins over the Swiss star. They are on a path to meet in the final.
The 24-year-old Argentine advanced to the semifinals by winning the last 14 games in a 7-5, 6-0, 6-0 win over 33-year-old Frenchman Fabrice Santoro.
To get a chance to try to repeat his Masters Cup final upset over Federer, he'll have to overcome former junior world champion Marcos Baghdatis - a 20-year-old Cypriot in his first major semifinal.
Baghdatis added a 6-4, 6-2, 4-6, 3-6, 6-3 win over No. 7 Ivan Ljubicic on Tuesday to his fourth-round upset of No. 2 Andy Roddick, delighting the hundreds of Greek fans who chanted throughout his quarterfinal in Rod Laver Arena.
Back in Cyprus, people in Baghdatis' hometown of Limassol poured into the streets celebrating his victory, and drivers honked horns and waved Greek and Cypriot flags.
"I think it's getting crazy - all of the people are watching my match," Baghdatis said.
Federer, who endured a five-set fourth-round win over Tommy Haas, faces No. 5 Nikolay Davydenko in the quarterfinals today, when No. 21 Nicolas Kiefer takes on No. 25 Sebastien Grosjean.
Petrova had 12 double faults - including when she served for the first set at 6-5 and at set point in the tiebreaker - while Sharapova had eight as the wind swirled around them.
"It was definitely not easy," said Sharapova. "It was a miracle when someone held serve."
In tears at times and tossing her racket in anger, a frustrated Petrova finished with 49 unforced errors.
"I just feel like I simply gave it away," she said.
Davenport and Henin-Hardenne combined for 13 service breaks and 18 double faults.
Henin-Hardenne got the pivotal break when she converted on her fourth opportunity with Davenport serving in the sixth game of the third set. She withstood three double faults in her last two service games, finishing off the match when Davenport sent a backhand service return long.
"She put me under a lot of pressure in the first, but I kept fighting," said Henin-Hardenne, who missed two months with a right hamstring injury before returning in mid-January.

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