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Serena gets free pass at Aussie Open tennis, Dementieva dominates

Tuesday, January 27, 2009 , Posted by Linda at 11:20 AM

MELBOURNE – A struggling Serena Williams received a free ride into the Australian Open quarter-finals when her opponent fell ill Monday, while fourth seed Elena Dementieva surged to her 14th straight win this year.

Serena gets free pass at Aussie Open tennis, Dementieva dominates Serena Williams of the US returns a forehand to Victoria Azarenka of Belarus

Three-time Australian champion Williams was trailing 6-3, 2-4 to rising teen star Victoria Azarenka and had received a code violation for swearing in frustration when a mystery bug forced the 16th seeded Belarussian to retire.

Williams next opponent, eighth seed Svetlana Kuznetsova of Russia, also had an armchair ride into the quarters when Chinese 22nd seed Zheng Jie pulled out of their clash with a wrist injury.

But there were convincing wins for Dementieva and unseeded Spanish giantkiller Carla Suarez Navarro in the two matches that did go the distance.

Azarenka's dramatic withdrawal prematurely curtailed what was developing into a fascinating clash between a nine-time Grand Slam winner Williams and one of the leading lights in a new generation of challengers.

The 19-year-old had broken Williams twice to win the first set and was down a break in the second when she became distressed.

She called a medical time out but could barely stand up after coming back out to play, wobbling between points then staggering to the net in tears to concede the match before being helped off court.

Williams, who complained of feeling rusty earlier in the tournament, said she was unhappy with her serve when she was reprimanded for an audible obscenity towards the end of the first set.

"I felt like this tournament my serve hasn't been anywhere near where it normally is so I just got a little frustrated with my first serve percentage," she said, adding that she was confident she would have come back to win.

Williams remains on track for a semi-final showdown wiith Dementieva, who crushed Slovak 18th seed Dominika Cibulkova 6-2, 6-2 to extend the hottest winning streak in women's tennis.

The 27-year-old's 14-match run this year has already delivered titles in Auckland and Sydney, leading compatriot Dinara Safina to nominate her the favourite to lift the trophy here.

But Dementieva played down the tag, preferring to concentrate on her next match against Suarez Navarro.

"I'm the favourite? I don't think so," the Monte Carlo-based world number four said.

She expected a tough test against Suarez Navarro, who dispatched fellow Spaniard Anabel Medina Garrigues, seeded 21, with a 6-3, 6-2 win.

Suarez Navarro, who dumped Venus Williams from the tournament, equalled her previous best Grand Slam performance at the French Open last year.

The unseeded 20-year-old said her experience at Roland Garros would help her against Dementieva.

"It's different because it's the second time, it's not the first time," she said. "I think I can play better than the first time."

Kuznetsova, the 2004 US Open champion, said she would have preferred a hit-out against Zheng but the Chinese player's wrist injury was something beyond her cntrol.

Zheng had her left wrist strapped early in the first set and was unable to continue a short time later, with Kuznetsova leading 4-1.

The Russian has had a low-profile advance to the last eight but said she was capable of taking on anyone.

"I'm just going to play and focus on my game, I'm fine with that and I'm getting better and better," she said.

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