Molik becomes first Aussie in decades into quarters

Updated: January 24, 2005, 9:19 AM ET news services

MELBOURNE, Australia -- Venus Williams lost to Alicia Molik of Australia 7-5, 7-6 (3) Monday in the fourth round of the Australian Open, extending her Grand Slam drought and keeping her from joining sister Serena in the quarterfinals.

Williams was seeking her fifth Grand Slam title and first since winning the 2001 U.S. Open. She reached five finals after that, but hasn't made it past the quarterfinals of a major since injuring an abdominal muscle in mid-2003.

Molik, the Olympic bronze medalist last year in Athens, will face No. 1 seed and 2000 champion Lindsay Davenport, who polished off Karolina Sprem 6-2, 6-2 earlier Monday. It's the first time that Molik, who stretched her winning streak to 12 matches, has reached the quarterfinals of a Grand Slam.

"This is a huge feat, I beat Venus," Molik said. "I beat her playing my tennis, and I didn't wait for her to make mistakes, and that's something I can be pretty proud of."

She broke the eighth-seeded Williams at love to finish off the first set, then fought off five break points in the second.

Both players held to force a tiebreaker, where Molik showed her best, jumping to a 4-0 lead, then falling again on a running forehand that she netted. She shook it off and finished off the match when Williams weakly hit a forehand into the net.

Molik refused to wilt under Williams' power attack, firing seven aces and other winners that kissed the lines.

"I couldn't quite get a handle on what was going wrong," Williams said. "Normally if I'm playing 5 percent better, I'd win."

Molik became the first Australian woman to reach the quarters since Anne Minter 17 years ago.

Davenport breezed into the women's quarterfinals without any major problems, but third-seeded Anastasia Myskina, the French Open champion, and fellow Russian Elena Dementieva, the losing finalist at the French and U.S. Opens, were eliminated.

Davenport needed just an hour to beat No. 13 Karolina Sprem 6-2, 6-2. Sprem held serve only once in each set, while Davenport converted six of her 10 breakpoint opportunities.

No. 1 Davenport, looking for her first Grand Slam title in five years will play either former world No. 1 Venus Williams or Alicia Molik, the 10th seed from Australia.

Myskina sprayed forehands wide and long, and finished with 45 unforced errors, losing 6-4, 6-2 to 19th-seeded Nathalie Dechy.

She was so concerned about her faltering forehand in the second set that she ran around to hit a double-fisted backhand on a net approach to get one break of serve back.

She shanked a forehand to give Dechy match point and dumped another into the net to finish it.

"I couldn't focus during the match, I lost a lot of easy balls," Myskina said. "I think I have to forget this match."

Dementieva led 12th-seeded Patty Schnyder by a set and two breaks before losing 6-7 (6), 7-6 (4), 6-2.

Dementieva had 61 of the 116 unforced errors in her match. She saved a match point with a convincing forehand winner but then gave Schnyder another with a double fault and lost the match when she dumped a forehand into the net.

"I had such bad luck -- I was 4-0, 30-love and didn't take my chances. That changed the match," she said. "She started to play well, I just lost my rhythm, thought 'it's already over' -- I don't know how I did it."

Schnyder was a surprise semifinalist here last year, beating three seeded players in straight sets before losing to eventual runner-up Kim Clijsters in the next-to-last round.

Information from The Associated Press and Reuters was used in this report.