Venus exits as Ivanovic advances to face Hantuchova in semifinal

Updated: January 23, 2008, 11:19 AM ET
ESPN.com news services

MELBOURNE, Australia -- Venus Williams followed her sister Serena out of the Australian Open in the quarterfinals, both in losses to Serbian players.

Venus went down 7-6 (3), 6-4 to fourth-seeded Ana Ivanovic on Wednesday, a day after defending champion Serena lost to No. 3 Jelena Jankovic.

Ivanovic, who had never taken a set off Williams in four previous contests, is into the semifinals for the third time at a Grand Slam and next faces first-timer Daniela Hantuchova, who beat Agnieszka Radwanska 6-2, 6-2.

In the other women's semifinal Jankovic will meet No. 5 Maria Sharapova, who ended top-ranked Justine Henin's 32-match winning streak 6-4, 6-0.

After four straight losses to Venus Williams, including the semifinals at Wimbledon and the fourth round at the U.S. Open, 20-year-old Ivanovic was thrilled to win.

"It was an amazing match and I'm just thrilled to get through," the French Open finalist said. "In the last 18 months I've come a long way.

Polar Opposite

Venus Williams has won multiple titles at the U.S. Open and Wimbledon. But she hasn't had the same success in the southern hemisphere. Here's the results of Venus' last five outings at the Australian Open. (Note: She did not play the '07 Aussie Open.)

Year Result
2008 Lost in quarters
2006 Lost in 1st round
2005 Lost in 4th round
2004 Lost in 3rd round
2003 Lost in finals

"She's an amazing competitor and she was playing very well today."

The Williams sisters have 14 singles majors between them, but the hold that they once had on women's tennis is declining.

"There's been a lot of talk every single year," Venus Williams said in response, again, to the question. "I think what's important to me is what goes on in my head. I've been a champion. I have full expectations and aspirations to continue to play high-quality tennis and to continue to be a champion.

"And I think Serena and I, we don't have anything to prove. We get out there and we play our best ... I don't get too caught up in what the next person thinks."

Neither Ivanovic nor Williams showed any respect for the other's serve.

There were six consecutive breaks in the first set alone.

Shaking her head and sighing, Williams had 21 unforced errors in the first set to just seven winners as she sprayed the ball all over the court.

"She played well and hit a lot of good shots... so I give her a lot of credit," the Wimbledon champion said. "I have nobody to blame but myself."

Williams won just one of her five service points in the tiebreaker, covering her face with her hand after netting a straightforward backhand volley to give Ivanovic a 5-2 edge.

[+] EnlargeAna Ivanovic
AP Photo/Dita AlangkaraAna Ivanovic enters a Grand Slam semifinal for the third time of her career after holding off Venus Williams in the Australian Open.

Then, after swatting away flies three times as she prepared to serve, Williams hit a swinging backhand volley into the net on set point.

Williams, her left thigh heavily wrapped almost to her knee, picked up her game dramatically to start the second set, jumping out to a 3-0 lead. She was really pounding the ball, her grunts of exertion sounding nearly like screams.

But it didn't last as Ivanovic broke back to get on serve. Then, after Williams fended off a break point to take a 4-3 edge, Ivanovic ran off the last three games, rallying from 15-40 as she served for the match.

Hantuchova had not been to the second week of a Grand Slam tournament since her quarterfinal exits at three consecutive majors.

"It feels great. I kept fighting for every point, even in matches I wasn't playing very well," she said. "I kept believing I could do it, and here I am."

Hantuchova made the quarterfinals of three straight Grand Slams -- Wimbledon and the U.S. Open in 2002 and a loss to Williams in the Australian Open in 2003, but it's been a dry spell since.

"I guess I had to get through all the tough times and get experience in order to be able to get to this stage," said No. 9-seeded Hantuchova, who is the oldest of the semifinalists at 24. "That's why I can appreciate moments like this much, much more."

Hantuchova was asked before she knew her semifinal opponent -- Ivanovic or Williams -- what kind of match she expected.

"You'll face a stiff test either way in the semifinals," Hantuchova said. "But I've got nothing to lose. I'm in a great position."

Australian Open scores

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

The 18-year-old Radwanska had a dream run through the tournament, beating second-seed Svetlana Kuznetsova and 14th-seed Nadia Petrova on her way to the quarterfinals.

"I made a few mistakes. I also had many chances, but I didn't use [them] and the last points always she did better," Radwanska said.

"I tried my best, but [it was] not my day."

Sharapova will be looking back for lessons to take into the semis against Jankovic, her old tennis academy pal.

The last time Jankovic and Sharapova played -- at the Birmingham grass court tournament last year -- Jankovic beat the Russian in three sets, including 7-5 in the decider. Sharapova has beaten Jankovic twice on hard courts, including the U.S. Open's second round in 2004.

Sharapova says that makes little difference to her.

"Previous matches don't count, this is a new encounter, a new match," Sharapova said. "Ever since the juniors we've always played really tough and we've always battled it out, and it's great to see her in the semis. It's great we're playing together."

Jankovic has been hampered by a thigh problem since helping Serbia to the Hopman Cup final, where it lost to the Serena Williams-led United States.

She needed treatment during her first-round win here, when she had to save three match points, and again against Williams.

"I'm like a wounded animal. I still keep going," she said, adding for emphasis that she had a point to prove following a fourth-round loss to Williams here last year.

"Getting revenge, it feels so good," Jankovic said.

The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.