Serena Completes Williams Exit at Australian Open

Posted on January 20, 2006

One year ago Serena Williams won the Australian Open, but on Friday the now-bloated former No. 1 was put out of her misery 6-1, 7-6(5) in third-round play by No. 17 seed Daniela Hantuchova, ending the Williams sisters Australian stint for 2006.

Venus looked the odds-on favorite of the two after appearing fit in Melbourne with a recent Wimbledon championship under her belt, and with various niggling injuries behind her, but nonetheless was shocked in her opening-round match earlier this week. The younger Serena by contrast arrived in Melbourne carrying considerable extra weight gained during the off-season, and had pulled out of an exhibition earlier in the month with a knee problem.

"I just made a lot of errors today," said the No. 13-seeded Serena, almost parroting her sister's post-match-loss media meeting with no explanation for another error-filled display. "I just couldn't find my shots at all. Everything I was trying just wasn't working. It was just one of those days."

The loss ended a 16-match win streak for Serena in Melbourne, with the American gamely fighting off five match points before succumbing in the second-set tiebreak. In their three previous meetings the willowy Slovak failed to win even a set off the younger Williams sister.

World No. 1 Lindsay Davenport received a scare for the "other Russian Maria," the No. 25-seeded Maria Kirilenko, outlasting the statuesque Sharapova clone 6-4, 4-6, 6-2.

"It's not frightening," said Davenport of her brush with the 18-year-old. "I look at it as a challenge to play a lot of the young girls that are coming up -- and the really good ones. I think I've played most of them, I don't care what age they are or how long they've been playing, it's all about the tennis and what kind of game each girl can bring on that day."

The four other seeded winners advanced easily in straight sets in (4) Maria Sharapova (d. Kostanic 0-and-1), (6) Nadia Petrova (d. Camerin), (8) Justine Henin-Hardenne (d. Razzano), and (14) Svetlana Kuznetsova (d. Santangelo).

"Mentally it was pretty tough when you know you've got a very patient opponent and you know that it's really hot out there," Sharapova said after dropping only one game. "I mean, you've got to be really tough. And the score doesn't really explain the match."

Two unseeded players also gained the fourth round in Russian Elena Vesnina (d. (Q) Savchuk from a set down) and Spanish doubles specialist Virginia Ruano Pascual (d. Granville).

"Today was so mentally a tough match for me because with [Savchuk] I play with her many times," Vesnina said. "I know her and she knows me. She knows everything, how I play, what I like, what I don't like. That's why we played so long a match...I did not know how to deal with this wind. Her serve had some extra kick and with this wind it was very hard."

On court Saturday in Oz in third-round action will be Hingis vs. Benesova, (3) Mauresmo vs. Krajicek, the Aussie Stosur vs. Sybille "The Whammer" Bammer, (7) Schnyder vs. Nakamura, (2) Clijsters vs. Vinci, (12) Myskina vs. Arvidsson, (16) Vaidisova vs. (20) Pennetta, and (15) Schiavone vs. Sanchez Lorenzo.

Doubles highlights will be (6) Hantuchova/Sugiyama vs. China's N.Li/S.Peng, Aussies Ferguson/Wheeler vs. (15) Groenefeld/Shaughnessy, and Americans Craybas/Tu vs. (4) Ruano Pascual/Suarez.