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Venus flops in Australian Open as Rafa and Murray march on

Friday, January 23, 2009 , Posted by Linda at 11:15 AM

MELBOURNE – Seven-time Grand Slam champion Venus Williams was dumped from the Australian Open on Thursday but it was a different story for Rafael Nadal and Andy Murray who barged into the third round.

Venus flops in Australian Open as Rafa and Murray march on Venus Williams of the US returns the ball to Carla Suarez Navarro of Spain during their women's singles

Venus lost the plot against Spain's unseeded Carla Suarez Navarro, crashing 2-6, 6-3, 7-5 for the upset of the tournament so far and continuing her unhappy association with the event which she has never won.

Her sister Serena lived to fight another day, but she too struggled.

The three-time champion needed to mount a second-set recovery after Gisela Dulko took a 5-2 lead. The American finally woke up to reel off five games in a row and tame the Argentinean 6-3, 7-5.

"When you go out on court you have got to expect anything," said Venus, the sixth seed.

"I'm not surprised at how well she played. I haven't quite figured out the areas of my game that went wrong, but I have to credit her."

In hot and blustery conditions, Nadal crushed Roko Karanusic of Croatia 6-2, 6-3, 6-2 to stay on track for his first hardcourt Grand Slam title.

The world number one wrapped up his one-sided match in 97 minutes to set up a clash with 79th-ranked German Tommy Haas.

"He played aggressively, it's not easy to play against someone who plays inside the court and hits big shots with the forehand," Nadal said.

"But I feel very comfortable here and I'm very happy with the victory."

Joining him in the next round was Britain's fourth seed Murray, who wasted little energy in disposing of Spain's Marcel Granollers 6-4, 6-2, 6-2.

"I've been playing really well for the last six or seven months and it's probably the best I have felt coming into a Grand Slam," said the Scot, adding that he was confident he could go "deep" into the tournament.

Serena, who next plays China's Peng Shuai, acknowledged her performance had not been good, rating it a D-minus.

"Today I was at like a D-minus at best," she said.

"But it's good that I was able to win, too, when I wasn't playing my best. I definitely will try to do better.

"She had some opportunities but I never felt like I was going to lose."

She joins top seed Jelena Jankovic, third seed Dinara Safina and fifth seed Ana Ivanovic in the third round after they all assured their berths on Wednesday.

While Serena is considered the favourite, despite her unconvincing performance, the unassuming Elena Dementieva is in a rich vein of form.

The Russian fourth seed steamrolled over the Czech Republic's Iveta Benesova 6-4, 6-1 for her 12th straight victory this year after claiming back-to-back titles in Auckland and Sydney.

The Beijing Olympic gold medalist is seen as one of the most consistent players never to have won a Grand Slam, and she senses her time is coming.

"I'm not thinking about my chances," she insisted. "I'm really enjoying the way I'm playing right now and I just want to go as far as I can, just enjoy every single match I play here."

Also safely through was eighth seed Svetlana Kuznetzova and 2006 champion Amelie Mauresmo, who survived a scare from British qualifier Elena Baltacha to win 4-6, 6-3, 6-2.

Next up for Maursemo is dark horse Victoria Azarenka, who continued her recent impressive form by breezing past the Czech Republic's Petra Kvitova 6-2, 6-1.

Among the men, fifth seed Jo-Wilfried Tsonga survived a 195-minute marathon to down Croatian Ivan Ljubicic 6-7 (4/7), 7-6 (10/8), 7-6 (8/7), 6-2.

Meanwhile, Chilean 13th seed Fernando Gonzalez sped past Argentina's Guillermo Canas 7-5, 6-3, 6-4, setting up a clash with 24th seed Frenchman Richard Gasquet.

They were joined by sixth seed Gilles Simon, fellow Frenchmen Gael Monfils, in-form Spaniard Fernando Verdasco and American James Blake.

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