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Venus loses at the Australian Open
Updated: 2005-01-25 10:34

Venus Williams was out of step and out of time.

Facing three match points, she stumbled chasing a ball, and her off-balance forehand flopped into the net, giving Alicia Molik a 7-5, 7-6 (3) upset Monday in the fourth round of the Australian Open.

Venus Williams, of the United States, eighth seed, leaves the court after her fourth round loss to Alicia Molik of Australia, 10th seed, at the Australian Open at Melbourne Park, Melbourne, Australia, Monday, Jan. 24, 2005. Molik won the match, 7-5, 7-6. [AP]
A group of women in the crowd of 14,225 unfurled a banner reading: "Venus, you've been eclipsed."

But Williams didn't see it that way, even if she hasn't been past the quarterfinals at the past six Grand Slam tournaments.

"I feel like that was one I definitely should have won. I just was off of my rhythm," the eighth-seeded Williams said. "I definitely didn't produce my best tennis, that's for sure."

She made 28 unforced errors, two more than the 10th-seeded Molik, who faces top-ranked Lindsay Davenport in the quarterfinals. Davenport cruised past No. 13 Karolina Sprem 6-2, 6-2 and has dropped just one set in four matches.

Williams insists she's just as competitive now in big matches as she was when she won the 2001 U.S. Open final for the last of her four major titles.

"Absolutely!" she said. A string of injuries that hampered her last year couldn't be blamed for this loss.

At times, she showed glimpses of grace — a leaping overhead winner in the fifth game of the second set was a prime example. But Williams clearly wasn't at her best. She swatted at one of Molik's looping forehands as if it were an irritating insect, missing the ball twice before it landed behind her.

"This is a huge feat; I beat Venus," said Molik, the singles bronze medalist at the Athens Olympics. "I beat her playing my tennis, and I didn't wait for her to make mistakes, and that's something I can be pretty proud of."

Molik is the first Australian woman in the Open quarterfinals since Anne Minter in 1988.

Two other top women lost: French Open champion Anastasia Myskina and No. 6 Elena Dementieva, the runner-up at the French Open and U.S. Open. In men's action, No. 2 Andy Roddick, No. 3 Lleyton Hewitt, No. 9 David Nalbandian and No. 26 Nikolay Davydenko moved into the quarterfinals.

Myskina and Dementieva were among seven Russians to make it to the round of 16, but only Wimbledon champion Maria Sharapova and U.S. Open titlist Svetlana Kuznetsova reached the quarterfinals. They will face each other on Tuesday, when men's No. 1 seed Roger Federer will try to keep his 25-match winning streak alive against four-time Australian Open winner Andre Agassi.

The third-seeded Myskina had 45 unforced errors in her 6-4, 6-2 loss to No. 19 Nathalie Dechy, a 25-year-old Frenchwoman in the quarterfinals of a major for the first time in 37 appearances.

"I couldn't focus during the match. I lost a lot of easy balls," Myskina said. "I think I have to forget this match."

Dementieva led 12th-seeded Patty Schnyder by a set and two breaks before losing 6-7 (6), 7-6 (4), 6-2 in a match marred by 116 unforced errors.

Williams lost 13 games through three straight-set wins before facing Molik and thought she was in decent form.

"I would definitely say that when I'm playing well, I feel like I'm the best. And today was not my best, absolutely not my best," Williams said. "I wasn't hitting it cleanly enough. I felt like my movement wasn't as good as the previous rounds."

Asked if Molik can win the title, Williams said she'd like to think her younger sister, Serena, could get in the way.

"You know, it's out of my hands now," Williams said. "I kind of want Serena to win. So that's my horse now."

Roddick struggled with the serve of Germany's Philipp Kohlschreiber but smacked 15 aces and overcame a second-set letdown to win 6-3, 7-6 (8), 6-1.

"I actually had a little trouble getting used to a serve coming from a righty, as weird as that sounds," said Roddick, who opened with matches against three straight left-handers. "Took me a little while to get on it."

He next faces Davydenko, who beat No. 12 Guillermo Canas 6-3, 6-4, 6-3.

Against the 102nd-ranked Kohlschreiber, Roddick was erratic in the second set, doubling his unforced errors to 12 and throwing his racket to the court after sending a forehand long.

"I don't think I hit the ball as clean as I did in the first three matches," he said. "I just felt like I was fighting it a little bit more. I'm not too concerned. The good thing is I don't feel like I had my best day, and we're here talking about a three-set win."

Hewitt overcame a sore right hip to beat unseeded Rafael Nadal 7-5, 3-6, 1-6, 7-6 (3), 6-2.

Hewitt said the hip, injured at a warmup tournament in Sydney, should not affect him in his next match, against Nalbandian in a rematch of the 2002 Wimbledon final. Nalbandian beat No. 6 Guillermo Coria 5-7, 7-5, 6-3, 6-0 in an all-Argentine baseline struggle that went about 3 1/2 hours and ended just after 2 a.m. local time Tuesday.

Trying to finish points quickly to limit his movement, Hewitt committed five consecutive errors in the fourth set after going ahead 0-40 while holding a 3-2 lead.

He then proved that he deserved his reputation as a battler. Hewitt got to a tiebreaker and won it, punctuating the points with his trademark fist pumps and shouts of "Come on!"

That got the fans roaring and left the 18-year-old Nadal shaking his head.

"This crowd is second to none," Hewitt said. "I was hurting a little bit in the third set. You try to get all of the negative thoughts out of your mind."

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