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Clijsters Ejects Azarenka, Venus Narrowly Escapes

The women’s draw sprang a leak for the first time at the 2010 Sony Ericsson Open. Svetlana Kuznetsova,  the top seed, Victoria Azarenka, the defending champion and 4th seed, as well as Jelena Jankovic, the 2008 finalist and 7th seed, all went out in the round of 16.  Venus Williams barely hung on to defeat Daniela Hantuchova 1-6,7-5,6-4.

Hantuchova captured Williams’ first two service games and ran away with the first set 6-1.  In the second set, courtesy of a Williams double fault, Hantuchova arrived at break point. After Venus wiped that out, later on because of errors, Hantuchova capitalized for 2-0.  Promptly though, Williams broke at love to get back on serve.  Shortly thereafter, Hantuchova misfired on three consecutive backhands handing Williams a break.  Venus consolidated at love for a 4-2 edge.  But, with Williams serving for the second set at 5-4, as a result of a double fault and a netted backhand, Hantuchova had break point.  When Venus made a forehand error subsequent to a terrific down the line stroke by Daniela, the players were dead even.  Down the road, by provoking mistakes from Hantuchova, Williams obtained a break, then, with a love game, she acquired the second set.

Early on in the third set, both competitors had break point, but maintained serve.  Yet, in the ninth game, with aggressive shots, Williams forced Hantuchova into errors and on her third break chance converted for a 5-4 lead.  Following a forehand crosscourt winner, Venus arrived at triple match point.  Williams moved on to the quarterfinals when Hantuchova dumped the return into the net.

Here are Venus’ comments after the match to the questions by
Q.  You last played her in 2007, although you have a 90 record against her, it’s been a while.  Was there something different about her game today, or was it the conditions?
WILLIAMS:  Yeah, she played really well.  I haven’t seen her play so well in a long time, so I think she was really executing her game.  Conversely, I was a little bit off and struggling to find the court and everything else. You know, days like this you just have to figure out a way to win the point, even if it’s not pretty.  So I enjoy that battle. Of course, I’d like to win more straightforward, but when it counts and times get tough, I always feel confident that I’m gonna find a way to win the point.

Q.  I notice that you don’t call for oncourt coaching.  Do you enjoy trying to figure out the puzzle on your own?
WILLIAMS:  I’ve called before.  It’s been a while.  I like being on the court alone.  I enjoy that.  I’m not a player [who] looks at [her] box every point. I look inside myself, because I feel like I have the answer. And all I need is my box to say, Go, go.  You can do it. That’s enough.

In the next round, Williams battles Agnieszka Radwanska.  Radwanska ousted Yaroslava Shvedova in straight sets 6-1,6-4.

The opening set of the Clijsters and Azarenka match was a dizzying with breaks galore. Ultimately after scratching off double break point on her serve, Clijsters set up double break/set point with a forehand crosscourt winner.  Clijsters pocketed the set when Azarenka dumped a forehand into the net.

After Clijsters had an easy game to begin the second set, with a forehand crosscourt winner, she broke for 2-0.  As Azarenka’s frustration mounted, her play deteriorated leading to Clijsters finishing her off in no time flat.  The final score was 6-4,6-0.

Samantha Stosur will be Clijsters’ quarterfinal adversary.  On her fourth attempt, Stosur prevailed for the first time over Jelena Jankovic 6-1,7-6.

A mixture of inclement weather and a shoulder injury resulted in Kuznetsova’s downfall. The Russian was given her pink slip by Marion Bartoli.  Bartoli pounced Kuznetsova 6-3,6-0.

This was what Bartoli had to say when asked:
Q.  This is your first quarters here since 2003.  How does it feel?
BARTOLI:  Yeah, it feels great, you know.  I had a couple of bad years here. It was really tough for me, because I really love this tournament since I played Orange Bowl here when I was 16 years old. Coming here and playing so badly last few years has been tough mentally.  This year I just arrived a bit earlier from Indian Wells . . .  and practiced really a lot more . . . to get used to the conditions, because it’s just really tough to play here. I think the work paid off.

Q. The last time you played Kuznetsova was in 2006 in Bali.  Is there something different about your game or her game?
BARTOLI:  My game is different. I am serving a lot better than before.  I have a more powerful game compared to the last time we played which was before 2007 when I ended up ranked in the top ten and made it to a grand slam final.  My level particularly has elevated tremendously. [My serve]  especially is more powerful.

Bartoli battles Yanina Wickmayer in the quarters.  Wickmayer trounced Timea Bacsinszki 6-0,6-1.

Finally, a comfortable win for Caroline Wozniacki as she beat Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova 6-2,6-2.  Wozniacki’s quarterfinal rival, Justine Henin will not be as generous. Henin dispatched Vera Zvonareva 6-1,6-4.

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