Davenport, Sharapova, Henin-Hardenne advance
MELBOURNE, Australia -- Top seed Lindsay Davenport survived a tough match and extreme heat to beat Russia's Maria Kirilenko 6-4, 4-6, 6-2 in the third round of the Australian Open on Friday.
Both players struggled with their serve in the first two sets, with Davenport snatching two breaks in the first and Kirilenko managing the same in the second to send the game into a deciding third set.
"It was really an up-and-down performance by me," Davenport said. "I felt like I was making a lot of errors but I felt like I was doing well to control the points in the first set. Then in the second set I really just kind of fell apart with making way too many errors. She was doing a good job of keeping a lot of balls in."
Temperatures on center court at Rod Laver Arena were as high as 104 degrees, but because they had already begun play it could not be halted or the roof closed.
Davenport will meet 14th-seeded Russian Svetlana Kuznetsova, the 2004 U.S. Open champion, in the fourth round.
Eighth seed Justine Henin-Hardenne also eased into the fourth round with an impressive 6-4, 6-1 win over France's Virginie Razzano.
The Belgian stumbled slightly in the first set when 25th seed Razzano broke her serve in the fourth game for a 3-1 lead.
But Henin-Hardenne, champion here in 2004, broke back immediately and then raced through the second set to close out the match in 82 minutes.
The tournament favorite will play unseeded Virginia Ruano Pascual of Spain in the fourth round.
The match was played with the roof of Melbourne Park's Vodafone Arena closed after organizers invoked the tournament's extreme heat rule when temperatures outside reached 104 degrees.
Meanwhile, Maria Sharapova unveiled a new weapon in her comprehensive 6-0, 6-1 third-round thrashing of Jelena Kostanic on Friday, hoping that it will help propel the fourth seed all the way to a first Australian Open title. Sharapova will next face Daniela Hantuchova, who beat the defending champion Serena Williams in straight sets.
The Russian teen already boasts a full repertoire of shots, including a devastating serve, but has added a surprise tactic.
Although she plays right-handed, Sharapova caught Croatia's Kostanic completely by surprise when she briefly switched to her left hand.
Sharapova later revealed that she is a natural left-hander but changed sides when she was 11 years old, although she sometimes practices left-handed.
"I write with my right hand, but I throw and I kick with my left hand and my left foot," she told reporters.
"When I was younger, I played a little bit more lefty. I actually was at a point [where] I didn't know if I was going to play lefty or righty or both hands. I do practice it once in a while just to kind of balance it off. If I feel comfortable enough to hit a lefty, I feel like I'm in the right position to do it, I'm confident that I can make it," she said.
Sharapova, the fourth seed, had few problems beating Kostanic, a former Australian Open junior champion, to book her place in the fourth round and a possible clash against defending champion Serena Williams.
In other matches, Kuznetsova crushed Italian Mara Santangelo 6-3, 6-1 to storm into the fourth round and sixth seed Nadia Petrova cruised into the fourth round with a 6-1, 6-2 thrashing of feisty Italian Maria Elena Camerin.
Kostanic won just 14 points in the opening set, and while she managed to avoid the dreaded "double bagel" (6-0, 6-0) by holding her opening service game in the second set, Sharapova reeled off the next five games to complete a comfortable victory.
"I wouldn't say that was really easy," Sharapova said. "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 maintained peak intensity throughout the 68-minute win over Kostanic in bright, warm conditions at Rod Laver Arena, lifting the pitch of her shrieks as she sprinted for every ball.
One extra loud screech brought laughter from the crowd.
"When I do that, it means I'm not going to miss the ball," Sharapova explained.
Kostanic screamed in frustration after missing two chances to break in the fifth game of the second set -- her only opportunities against Sharapova's serve.
Sharapova, who lost to the eventual champion in all four majors in 2005, came into the season's first Grand Slam event after two months on the sidelines with a sore shoulder.
The problem was diagnosed as a dislocated rib and the 18-year-old Russian star was told she would not damage it any more by playing.
She said she needs hard, hot matches to get her into condition for the second week.
"It was the first day that it's been really hot like this," Sharapova said. "It's good to get through these kind of matches and I'm looking forward to the next one."
The temperature reached 88 degrees during the match and it was supposed to get hotter at Melbourne Park.
Former U.S. Open champion Kuznetsova blasted 10 aces past her opponent to become the fourth Russian into the last 16 at Melbourne Park this year, with two more still to play their third-round matches.
The 14th seed won the U.S. Open at the end of 2004 but tumbled down the rankings last year, failing to win a single tournament while falling in the first round of the defense of her New York title.
However, the signs are good that she is regaining her form and confidence this year. She was unbeaten at the Hopman Cup and reached the semifinals of last week's Sydney International.
Petrova wrapped up a comfortable victory in 72 minutes to advance to the fourth round against fellow Russian Elena Vesnina, who beat Ukraine's Olga Savchuk 5-7, 6-2, 6-4.
Camerin had saved six match points in her second-round win over Ekaterina Bychkova but was completely overwhelmed by Petrova.
The 23-year-old from Moscow has slipped through the draw largely unnoticed but is yet to drop a set and has lost only 11 games.
Information from The Associated Press, SportsTicker and Reuters was used in this report.