Hingis, Sharapova advance at Aussie Open

January 20th, 2007  
Team Infidel

Topic: Hingis, Sharapova advance at Aussie Open


Associated Press

MELBOURNE, Australia - It was just like old times for Martina Hingis. The former retiree easily moved past an opponent lacking the power that dominates tennis today, getting plenty of opportunities Saturday to hone her game as she reached the fourth round of the Australian Open.
Hingis' 6-2, 6-1 victory over Japan's Aiko Nakamura came on a day when Maria Sharapova, Kim Clijsters, Rafael Nadal and Nikolay Davydenko raced to quick victories and rain limited play to the two show courts, where the roofs were closed.
No. 5 James Blake had a 7-6 (6), 7-5, 6-2 win over fellow American Robby Ginepri, saving set points in the second and breaking serve six times in the match.
"Change two points and it's totally different," Blake said.
Blake roared and jumped high in the air, pumping his first, after smacking a backhand winner on match point. He then shook hands with Ginepri, and the two chatted briefly at the net before walking off, with Blake offering a pat on the back.
"He's one of my best friends on the Tour, so that makes it tougher," Blake said.
Nadal, who has played all three of his matches with the roof closed, jokingly took credit for easing Melbourne's long drought.
"I come with the rain," the second-seeded Spaniard said after beating No. 31 Stanislas Wawrinka 6-2, 6-2, 6-2. "I was in Majorca, and it was raining a lot, and the rain came back with me."
Nadal next faces 15th-seeded Andy Murray of Britain, who ousted Argentina's Juan Ignacio Chela in straight sets.
Eighth-seeded David Nalbandian struggled again, rallying for the second time from two sets down - and triple match point - to oust France's Sebastien Grosjean 5-7, 4-6, 7-6 (4), 6-4, 6-1. Davydenko needed only 2 hours to beat Fabrice Santoro.
Sixth-seeded Hingis and fourth-seeded Clijsters have had a friendly rivalry going to see who can get off court fastest in the women's draw. Clijsters won for the third straight time, by 2 minutes in finishing off Alona Bondarenko 6-2, 6-2 in exactly an hour.
Hingis considers Rod Laver Arena a second home after winning three of her five Grand Slam titles at Melbourne Park from 1997-99 and reaching the final the next three years. She returned here in 2006 at the start of her comeback from a three-year retirement.
Just as players can feed off frenzied fans, the rapid routs left the crowd unusually flat. The humidity that arrived after the air conditioning broke down also sapped the energy of players and fans alike.
"It was just a very strange feeling to be out there today," Hingis said. "The atmosphere was a little different from usual excitement, what you expect here. I think the crowd sometimes didn't really have that much to clap for."
Nakamura had nothing to attack with in a match that was a throwback to Hingis' early days, when the women's game was more about slices than power.
Sensing that Nakamura had little to hurt her with - she had only two winners to 11 unforced errors in the first set - Hingis worked on her placement and net game, where she won 10 of 14 approaches.
"I think I played some pretty good points also up at the net, tried to mix it up, did my job well," she said. "It's always a great feeling to be in the second week of a Grand Slam."
The conditions were an improvement for Sharapova, who broiled in the sun for 3 hours in her first match. Still, the lack of air conditioning had her dripping with sweat before the warmups were over.
"It was a little steamy in there ... humid," top-seeded Sharapova said after beating No. 30 Tathiana Garbin 6-3, 6-1. "I've felt cozier in my life."
Sharapova was broken in two of her first three service games. Then she found the range and was ripping winners - hitting the lines on three consecutive shots in one point - and allowed Garbin only one game the rest of the way.
"I thought I was a bit slow in the beginning of the match - didn't really adjust," she said. "I was letting her play her game a little too much.
"But I felt like as the match went on, I moved a lot better. I saw the short balls a lot quicker, put pressure on her."
Sharapova said she still had plenty of room for improvement. Her next match is against fellow Russian Vera Zvonareva, seeded 22nd, who upset No. 13 Ana Ivanovic.
"I don't think I'm (anywhere) as good as I can be playing," Sharapova said. "I hope that's yet to come."
Nadal, who has spent a record 78 weeks ranked No. 2 behind Roger Federer, was rarely challenged by Stanislas Wawrinka - until the last point. The 20-year-old Spaniard curled a forehand winner into the right corner on match point, just catching both the side and baseline.
Nadal and Wawrinka walked to the net - the Swiss player challenging the "in" call just for the record - and shook hands when video replays confirmed the ball was good.
"I played good today, very, very good ... a very complete match," Nadal said. "I feel very comfortable with my forehand, with my serve, with my backhand, too."

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