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Davenport makes Australian Open semifinals
By John Pye (Agencies)
Updated: 2005-01-26 13:41

Top-ranked Lindsay Davenport advanced to the Australian Open semifinals, overcoming local hope Alicia Molik 6-4, 4-6, 9-7 in the quarterfinals Wednesday.

Lindsay Davenport, of the United States, top seed, hits a backhand return to Alicia Molik of Australia, 10th seed, during their womens singles quarterfinals match on Rod Laver Arena at the Australian Open at Melbourne Park, Melbourne, Australia, Wednesday, Jan. 26, 2005. [AP]

Davenport twice served for the match, in the 10th game and at 8-7, when she saved two break points before holding on to close with a powerful forehand that Molik couldn't reach.

"There were a lot of ups and downs out here," Davenport said. "I'm not sure how I'm standing here.

"I felt I was really lucky today — after failing to finish it off at 5-4. She had a lot of momentum and I'm not sure exactly how I was able to get it back."

Davenport had a match point at 5-4 in the third set but Molik broke back, with some help from the net and then a ripping forehand winner down the line.

Davenport lost only one point in her next two service games and then broke in the 15th game. She had a break point on Molik's serve at 30-40 and 7-7, but the Australian served consecutive aces and had a third called out by a line judge.

Davenport won the next three points to hold the break and capitalized in the next, after falling behind 15-40.

She saved her second break point with a classic serve and volley and was on top for the rest of the game, finishing it off in 2 hours, 33 minutes.

Davenport will next meet 19th-seeded Nathalie Dechy of France, who rallied back to beat Patty Schnyder 5-7, 6-1, 7-5.

Davenport struggled with her serve at times against Molik, misfiring with 11 double-faults, including one on set point in the second set.

But she had 14 aces and salvaged two break points with aces on her second serve.

Davenport, who had been contemplating retirement last season before surging to the No. 1 ranking, won the last of her three Grand Slam titles at the 2000 Australian Open.

Molik had been in the fourth round of a major once — at the last Australian Open — and was the first Australian woman to advance so far in the national championship since 1988.

Molik, who ended last year at No. 11, won three titles at the end of 2004 and added the Sydney International title earlier this month.

Davenport withdrew from the Sydney tournament with bronchitis after pulling out of the Hopman Cup earlier this month to give herself more time to recover from a knee problem.

After Molik lost the first set, the capacity crowd at Rod Laver Arena tried to lift their hometown favorite. They waved both Australian and 'boxing kangaroo' flags as chants of "Aussie, Aussie, Aussie" rang out around the center court stadium.

As Molik and Davenport traded games midway through the second set, one fan yelled "Come on Alicia, the country's watching you. Let's do it."

Rather than burdening Molik with even more pressure — playing her first Grand Slam quarterfinal at home on Australia's national day — it seemed to lift her as Davenport looked to wilt.

Despite looking despondent at times, Davenport managed to hold it together.

Top-ranked Roger Federer had a lot less trouble advancing, playing so perfectly that he made Andre Agassi look average on Tuesday.

Defending champion Federer beat the eight-time major winner 6-3, 6-4, 6-4 in the quarterfinals, taking the punch right out of the best counter-puncher on the circuit.

Federer hit 22 aces and extended his winning streak to 26 matches. He's also won 24 in a row against opponents ranked in the top 10.

"He just outplayed me," Agassi said. "He was too good. I would suggest to his next opponent that he doesn't look to me for advice."

That would be fourth-seeded Marat Safin, who lost to Federer in last year's Australian Open final and will face him this year in the semifinals. Safin ousted No. 20 Dominik Hrbaty 6-2, 6-4, 6-2.

The other men's quarterfinals are No. 2 Andy Roddick vs. No. 26 Nikolay Davydenko, and No. 3 Lleyton Hewitt vs. No. 9 David Nalbandian.

Agassi, who withstood a record 51 aces by Joachim Johansson in the fourth round, had some answers for Federer's serve. But eventually the relentless forehands and half-volleys that Federer peppered from all parts of the court were simply too much.

"I came with high expectations. I wanted tonight to be memorable, but it's one I'd probably prefer to forget," Agassi said. "I never got my teeth into it, and when I don't get my teeth into a match, I can look pretty ordinary."

There was no high drama, nothing like the U.S. Open quarterfinal last September, when Federer won a five-set epic that spanned two days because of a rain delay and ended in high winds.

"I have no secrets," Federer said. "It's like roulette. I always pick the right numbers."

"I served perfectly — he never broke me. So I think that's what made me win."

Federer's 11 titles in 2004 included three Grand Slam events, making him the first man since Mats Wilander in 1988 to win a trio of majors in a season. Now he's trying to become the first to win three straight Slams since Pete Sampras added the 1994 Australian Open to his wins at the Wimbledon and the U.S. Open in 1993.

Serena Williams once won four straight majors — from the 2002 French Open through the 2003 Australian Open — but she hasn't played that well lately. She'll face Maria Sharapova in the Australian semifinals in a rematch of last year's Wimbledon final.

Williams eliminated No. 2 Amelie Mauresmo 6-2, 6-2, while Sharapova was on the verge of exhaustion when she clinched a 4-6, 6-2, 6-2 over U.S. Open champion Svetlana Kuznetsova in 2 hours, 17 minutes in the baking sun.

"I thought I couldn't go any more," Sharapova said.

"I had just enough to win that match point. That's it."

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