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Rusty Serena stays on track at Australian tennis open

Saturday, January 24, 2009 , Posted by Linda at 11:14 AM

MELBOURNE (AFP) – Rusty triple champion Serena Williams booked an Australian Open fourth round clash with rising teen star Victoria Azarenka Saturday as Gael Monfils spearheaded the French men's revolution.

Rusty Serena stays on track at Australian tennis open The USA's Serena Williams during her women's singles match against China's Peng Shuai

Williams, the tournament favourite, crushed China's Peng Shuai 6-1, 6-4 to set up an intruiging showdown with Azarenka after the Belarusian ended any hope Amelie Mauresmo had of repeating her 2006 heroics here.

Stung by a listless "D-minus" performance in the second round and sister Venus' shock exit at the same stage, Williams stamped her authority on the match early.

Peng mounted a stiffer challenge in the second set but couldn't match the American's power, leaving Zheng Jie as China's only player left in the draw.

Wimbledon semi-finalist Zheng, the 22nd seed, beat Ukraine's Kateryna Bondarenko 6-2, 6-2 to continue her best-ever Australian Open showing.

"It was definitely a lot better than my second round. But, you know, I'm still trying to work on some things and hoping they'll come together," said Williams.

"I'm feeling a little rusty, for whatever reason. I'm hoping my next round I'll be a little better."

She added that her sister's shock upset in the second round had given her extra motivation to win a 10th Grand Slam title.

"It obviously increases my motivation and my desire to win and hopefully do better."

The woman who beat Venus, Spain's unseeded Carla Suarez Navarro, continued her surprise march through the draw, easily beating countrywoman Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez 6-1, 6-4.

Next up for her is another Spaniard, Anabel Medina Garrigues, who sent Italian 12th seed Flavia Pennetta packing 6-4, 6-1

Suarez Navarro said she wasn't thinking too far ahead.

"Maybe, maybe not," she said of her quarter-final chances.

"I play now with Anabel, so we'll see -- I don't know. I just want to enjoy today's win before I start thinking about the next match."

Williams eliminated the big-hitting Azarenka from last year's Open but the Belarus teen is a far better player now and full of confidence.

"We'll see how it goes, I'm sure it'll be a great match," said Azarenka on the Williams showdown.

While the focus has been on the big name stars on the men's side, France has three contenders still in the tournament and looking dangerous.

Twelfth seed Monfils came into the Open overshadowed by higher-profile countrymen Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Gilles Simon, but has been making his mark with some impressive performances.

He produced another one Saturday to dismiss 17th seeded Spaniard Nicolas Almagro 6-4, 6-3, 7-5 and will play either Simon or Croatia's Mario Ancic for a place in the quarter-finals.

Monfils dominated Almagro over the early part of the match, breaking him once in the first set and twice in the second to open up a 2-0 lead.

Almagro fought back hard in the third set and games went on serve until Monfils produced the killer punch.

"I think I played a good game again today," he said.

"Everything was great. I mean, the concentration, physically also. So I'm very happy with that."

Tsonga plays later Saturday against Israeli qualifier Dudi Sela.

World number one Rafael Nadal takes on Germany's Tommy Haas while fourth seed Britain's Andy Murray faces Austria's Jurgen Melzer in evening play.

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