Maria, Serena, Henin advance to fourth round; Mauresmo out

Updated: January 18, 2008, 9:05 AM ET
Associated Press

MELBOURNE, Australia -- Maria Sharapova was struggling.

She had never played a match against another Russian across the net who bore a strong resemblance to her, physically and in style of play. Her usually reliable serve was getting broken.

Then it all clicked Friday, and last year's runnerup at the Australian Open was through to the fourth round with a 6-3, 6-0 victory over Elena Vesnina that was a lot harder than the score indicated.

Defending champion Serena Williams and top-ranked Justine Henin also advanced against opponents with similar games. Williams next faces 12th-seeded Nicole Vaidisova, while Henin puts her 31-match winning streak on the line against Taiwanese qualifier Hsieh Su-Wei.

But 2006 champion Amelie Mauresmo, seeded 18th, fell 3-6, 6-4, 6-4 to Australian Casey Dellaqua, who had a year-end No. 78 ranking and earlier beat No. 15 Patty Schnyder.

Former No. 1 Mauresmo, who has fought nerves before, double-faulted while serving at 4-5, deuce in the third set. Dellaqua then finished it off with a forehand inches inside the corner that Mauresmo let drop for a winner as the Rod Laver Arena crowd erupted in cheers for the last local hope in the women's draw.

Australian Open scores

In-progress scores and results from every match from both sides of the draw throughout the event. Complete scores

Dellaqua earned a matchup against No. 3 Jelena Jankovic, who had to save match points in her first-round match and a code violation for coaching -- by her mother in the players' box -- in the second game of the third set of a 6-2, 4-6, 6-1 win over No. 30 Virginie Razzano of France.

After routing Lindsay Davenport in the last round -- a match that Sharapova said she prepared for as if it were a final -- she seemed puzzled and frustrated that she couldn't put away Vesnina until she finally put it all together and ran off the last nine games.

"I really tried to keep the intensity I had in the previous match, but that's always difficult," said Sharapova, who next faces another Russian, No. 11 Elena Dementieva, who beat Israel's Shahar Peer. "She came out having not really much to lose."

Sharapova grunted louder and louder and hit harder and harder as she was broken twice in the first set by Vesnina, who was in constant trouble on her own serve. Known for her deliberate routine before she serves, Sharapova also got a warning for taking too much time and double-faulted on the next point.

"When it got close, I felt like I had a huge advantage ... whether that's experience or her being a little tight," Sharapova said. "I still felt like I had the edge in the match."

Finally finding her rhythm, particularly on badly executed drop shots and other softer offerings from Vesnina that turned into little more than target practice, Sharapova had 11 winners to only five unforced errors in the second set, breaking Vesnina for the seventh consecutive time to end the match.

[+] EnlargeJustine Henin
Ezra Shaw/Getty ImagesJustine Henin will play Taiwan's Hsieh Su-wei, who beat Aravane Rezai , in the fourth round.

Williams, who improved her record to 26-1 at Melbourne Park since the start of 2003, has said she likes hot weather, and on a warm, muggy day, she was wearing a sweatshirt for her warmups. It must have helped, because she came out hot, as her sister Venus and their mother applauded at courtside.

With opponent Victoria Azarenka liking a fast pace, there were no high, looping moon balls here, just power tennis. And when it comes to power, Williams may be the best.

Her serve was working particularly well, with 15 aces and a stretch of seven service games in which she yielded only six points.

She credited physiotherapy treatment she had on her shoulder before the match.

Azarenka played well, but she never had a serious chance. She had no break points, and every time she made a mistake, Williams capitalized.

"I feel pretty good about where I am," she said. "Hopefully, I'll peak later in the tournament."

Vaidisova, who had set points against Williams in the semifinals last year, knows the challenge she faces.

"Obviously, it doesn't get much tougher than that," "She's a great champion, a great fighter. I'll definitely have to have my A game on."

Henin, the 2004 champion, improved her record in Melbourne to 15-1 since '04. She and Schiavone kept each other on the run constantly, mixing up speed and spins to keep each other off-balance.

"She's always given me trouble in the past, so it was a tough third round for me," Henin said.


Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press