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