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Things Heat Up as Last 16 Wraps Up

Serena Williams was down for the count in her fourth round match against Victoria Azarenka, before the young Belarusian retired.

Published January 26, 2009 12:00

Things Heat Up as Last 16 Wraps Up
Victoria Azarenka

MELBOURNE, Australia - The only two former Grand Slam champions remaining in the draw set up a blockbuster quarterfinal clash on Monday, although their fourth round matches ended far more abruptly than expected. But nonetheless, Serena Williams and Svetlana Kuznetsova are through.

Eighth seed Kuznetsova was the first of the two to advance, winning when No.22 seed Zheng Jie sprained her left wrist and was forced to retire trailing 4-1 in the first set.

"I felt sorry for her because she was in great shape, and she was playing well. I hope the injury isn't dangerous," Kuznetsova said. "She's talented and keeps improving. I started well and was attacking her serve. I was in control. It would have been great to play the whole match, but I'm looking forward to the next match."

Second seed Williams was involved in more of a struggle, dropping the first set to No.13 seed Victoria Azarenka, 6-3. She broke early in the second and built a 4-2 lead, when her opponent began swaying between points, visibly suffering under the hot conditions. A few points later a teary-eyed Azarenka approached the net and retired from the match due to dizziness and gastrointestinal illness.

"Hopefully she'll be okay - she's young, so she'll have plenty of opportunities to do better," Williams said. "Honestly, I got worried. I was like, 'Oh my goodness,' because she started walking really slowly. The last thing she would want to do would be to fall. It was just weird. I was actually really worried."

"I started feeling sick in the morning; I woke up at 6am and was throwing up," Azarenka said. "Once I got to the court, I went to see the doctor and felt a little better. Throughout the first set and for a little bit of the second I felt fine, but then I just had no more energy. It's very disappointing because I was almost up 2-0 in the second. But whatever happens happens - I just have to accept that."

Williams has been a stalwart in the later rounds of the Australian Open, this being her sixth time to reach the quarterfinals. She is a three-time champion at the year's first major, taking the title in the last three odd years - 2003, 2005 and 2007. By contrast, this will be Kuznetsova's second time to reach the quarters here, having fallen in this round in 2005. Williams is 4-1 against Kuznetsova.

"I beat in her in Stuttgart very comfortably - I was playing unbelievable then," said Kuznetsova on her lone win against Williams, which came indoors in the fall of 2007. "It's definitely going to be hard. She has won so many Grand Slams. But I don't there's a huge space between players in the Top 10. Everybody can win, it just depends on the day. I'm just going to go out there and play my game."

"She's a good player, obviously - she gets a ton of balls back and is extremely strong," Williams said. "She's kind of like me. We have a very similar game. It will just be about who can do it better on the day."

Dementieva, Suárez Navarro set up David & Goliath clash

The first two encounters of the day saw Elena Dementieva and Carla Suárez Navarro earn quarterfinal berths. The unseeded Suárez Navarro was the first of the two to prevail, winning an all-Spanish affair against No.21 seed Anabel Medina Garrigues, 63 62. It will be the 20-year-old Canary Islands native's second Grand Slam quarterfinal, having reached the same round last year at Roland Garros, which was actually her first Grand Slam main draw (and she was a qualifier).

"It will be different than Roland Garros because this will be my second time, not the first," said Suárez Navarro, who lost to Jelena Jankovic handily in Paris. "I can play better this time than at Roland Garros. It will be a difficult match though - Dementieva is a very good player. I will just try to play my best tennis."

Suárez Navarro upset No.6 seed Venus Williams in the second round, coming back from 5-2 down in the third set and saving match points to achieve the feat. It was her first Top 10 win; she'll have to conjure up the same magic for No.4 seed Dementieva, who crushed No.18 seed Dominika Cibulkova, 62 62.

Dementieva didn't seem bothered at all with the heat, perhaps due to her off-season preparations in Miami, as well as winning titles in Auckland and Sydney.

"I decided to practice outdoors in Miami instead of just hitting indoors in Moscow," Dementieva said. "It was much easier for me to come here and play in similar weather conditions. I'm just very satisfied with the way I was playing today. It was a very solid match for me from beginning to end. I hope to keep it up."

This is Dementieva's first time reaching the quarters of the Australian Open, though she has been to the semis or better at the other three Grand Slams. She will be taking on Suárez Navarro for the first time as well.

"She plays a very unique style of game - a lot of spin," Dementieva said. "It's going to be a tough match. She had a very good win over Venus here, and today she was very solid. I was watching her playing at the French Open last year, when she qualified and beat Mauresmo. She's got a lot of talent and she's very physically fit. I'm not surprised she has made it this far."

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