At the Australian Open today

Updated: January 22, 2005, 2:57 AM ET
By Cynthia Faulkner | ESPN.com

There was a time when if you asked Venus Williams if a tournament was there for the taking, there wouldn't have been any dancing around. Not anymore.

Venus Williams
Williams

"It's definitely the right mindset to have, absolutely," Venus said Tuesday. "No matter what happens, whether you played well, whether you played badly, whether you made good decisions or bad ones, mentally you always have to feel like it's your turn."

It hasn't been Venus' turn since the 2001 U.S. Open. Still, she's rarely had trouble against her third-round opponent. After some talk of a possibly retiring, Anna Smashnova is back. Smashnova's ranking fell out of the top 20 last year after a hamstring injury and a divorce with husband Claudio Pistolesi.

Venus said she's been hitting the ball well this week.

"Definitely solid. I would like to have a little more spin," she said. "Sometimes I'm a little far from the ball. At my height I need to kind of be in perfect position a lot of the times, so I have to work maybe a bit harder than the shorter player. But also in other ways I have so many advantages."

She's comfortable enough to look ahead at a potential fourth-round match with Aussie Alicia Molik.

"So graceful, so talented," Venus said of Molik. "She absolutely deserves everything that she's got. You can tell she's working hard. If it will be, if we can make it happen, both of us, it will be a great match."

Molik, however, is still taking it one match at a time. Next up for her is Russian Tatiana Panova.

"She's a good runner," Molik said of Panova. "She gets to a lot of balls. She's a small girl, so probably her best assets are getting around the court and really getting a lot of balls back.

"But I feel like I'm going to need to use my weapons, I'm going to need to use my big serve, try and get into the net a bit. I'll try and hit a few heavy forehands. I think that will set me up well for the match."

Potential show stoppers

  • So, why should Lindsay Davenport be wary of 15-year-old Czech Nicole Vaidisova? In 2004, her first season, Vaidisova won two titles and reached the quarterfinals of two other events. Other recent players who won titles at such a young age? Jennifer Capriati, Martina Hingis and Maria Sharapova.

    Vaidisova trains at the Nick Bollettieri Acadmey in Florida. Unranked in 2003, she finished 2004 ranked 77. Last season, she won the junior singles and doubles title at the Australian Open. This is Vaidisova's second major tournament after she lost to Justine Henin-Hardenne in the first round of the U.S. Open.

  • Lleyton Hewitt and Juan Iganacio Chela went the distance twice last year. They've not met in a major, so this could be their first five set match.

    "Get ready for a long match, I'd say about as long as his name," Hewitt said, smiling. "We've had tough matches in the past. We played twice last year, both on hard court. He won the first one in three sets in Indian Wells, and I won the next one in three sets in Long Island right before the U.S. Open.

    "So he's a tough competitor. He obviously beat Wayne Arthurs in the first round. But it's going to be a little bit different matchup, him playing Wayne compared to playing me. There's going to be a lot of long rallies. It's going to be a real battle out there."

  • Andy Roddick can't seem to get away from southpaws. Austrian Jurgen Melzer becomes the third consecutive lefty Roddick will play -- a career first.

    It's not a problem, though. Since 2003, Roddick's won 15 of his past 16 matches with a left-handed opponent.

    Roddick comfortably defeated Melzer on a slow hard court at Davis Cup last February in a meaningless match as the United States already had clinched the tie. It's the only time they've met on a hard court.

    Melzer has never reached the fourth round of a major tournament.

  • Things might be turning around for Juan Carlos Ferrero. He's managed to put together back-to-back wins for the first time since Wimbledon -- and his first consecutive wins on hard courts since last February when he reached the final at Rotterdam.

    Ferrero holds a 2-0 record against Argentine Guillermo Coria and has never lost to an Argentine player in a major. Still, Coria had the best year of his career in 2004 finishing at No. 7 despite missing three months of play with a shoulder injury. Meanwhile, Ferrero's year-end ranking dropped from No. 3 in 2003 to No. 31 in 2004 after a year plagued with illnesses and injuries.

    This will be the first time they play on a hard court.

  • Rafael Nadal, 18, will face American Bobby Reynolds, who is playing in his first Australian Open and had only one match victory in a Grand Slam event prior to this week.

  • Brit Tim Henman plays Russian Nikolay Davydenko, who turns out to be Henman's lucky charm. Twice when Henman defeated Davydenko, Henman went on to win the tournament.

  • Martina Navratilova won her first-round doubles match and begins mixed doubles play today with partner Max Mirnyi against Todd Woodbridge and Eleni Daniilidou in the final night match on Rod Laver Arena.

    Cynthia Faulkner is the tennis editor for ESPN.com.

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