Thursday, August 31, 2006

Unseeded Serena Advances Into Third Round

She might be unseeded but Serena Williams served notice in an impressive second round win over 17th seeded Daniela Hantuchova 7-5, 6-3 at Ashe Stadium Thursday.

Having entered just her fourth tournament of the season due to a barrage of injuries, the two-time former U.S. Open champion looked in solid form avenging an Australian Open straight set loss in the same round to Hantuchova back in January.

But early on, Hantuchova jumped up an early break with some splendid hitting from the baseline to go ahead 3-0. Serving well and taking control of points early, it looked like she would take the first set from Williams. But trailing 2-5, the 24 year-old American raised her level and took five unanswered games to comeback and claim the set.

"Was I down 5-2? I didn't even know it," she told USA Network's Michael Barkann during a postmatch interview. "I just started focusing. She was doing everything right."

After holding for 3-5 to stay alive, she took advantage of a loose ninth game by her opponent. In it, Hantuchova made four unforced errors, including two missed drop shots and two costly double faults which put the set back on serve.

Given new life, Williams quickly held for five apiece. Starting to play more aggressively, she setup two break points in the 11th game. After Hantuchova saved one with a forehand winner, the 23 year-old Slovak served another untimely double to give Serena her second consecutive break for 6-5.

With another steady hold, the seven-time slam winner finished off the set in style with a forehand winner down the line.

Continuing to play well, Williams went up an early break in the second before cruising to the straight set triumph with her fourth break of the match when a Hantuchova shot sailed long.

The road probably won't get any easier as she'll most likely play 16th seeded Ana Ivanovic next. Ivanovic was a set up on Japan's Aiko Nakamura in the second round.

In other second round women's action, third seeded Russian Maria Sharapova advanced easily with a 6-0, 6-1 win over Emelie Loit. She'll next take on countrywoman Elena Likhovtseva (32), who moved into Round 3 with a 6-3, 6-2 victory over Nicole Pratt.

Meanwhile, 10th seeded American Lindsay Davenport cruised over Jelena Kostanic 6-0, 6-0.

"Some days, everything just seems to be working," she expressed to the AP afterwards. "These days don't happen that often, so you have to be happy when they come your way."

The former 1998 Open champ will next face 22nd seeded Katarina Srebotnik after she eliminated Ekaterina Bychkova in three sets 6-2, 4-6, 6-2.

Also moving into the third round was former 2003 winner Justine Henin-Hardenne. The second seeded Belgian ousted American teenager Vania King 6-1, 6-2 to setup a match against Japan's Ai Sugiyama (28), who was a three set victor over Tathiana Garbin 6-7 (2), 6-4, 6-2.

Former 2004 runner-up Elena Dementieva setup an all Russian third round with Vera Zvonareva. The fourth seed eliminated Emma Laine 6-4, 6-0 while Zvonareva (33) defeated American Jill Craybas 6-3, 7-5.

Top seeded Frenchwoman Amelie Mauresmo also was victorious over American Meghann Shaughnessy 6-4, 6-3. The match was much closer than the score would indicate. A highly entertaining affair, both players traded heavy groundstrokes from the baseline during some extended rallies. The difference was that rating Australian and Wimbledon champion Mauresmo saved 11 of 12 break points.

It was enough to carry her into a third round match-up against Mara Santangelo, who earlier got the better of Sybille Bammer 6-3, 6-1.

Other Round 2 seeded women's winners included Nadia Petrova (5), Svetlana Kuznetsova (6), Patty Schnyder (7), Nicole Vaidisova (9), Dinara Safina (12), Francesca Schiavone (14), Jelena Jankovic (19), Maria Kirilenko (20), Shahar Peer (21), Anna Chakvetadze (23), Li Na (24), Marion Bartoli (26) and Tatiana Golovin (27).

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