Serena overcomes injury drama; Henin rolls into quarters

Jul 2, 2007 - 7:42 PM WIMBLEDON, England (Ticker) -- For all the talk about Serena Williams' fitness, she has done some of her best work wounded.

After capturing the Australian Open title despite not being in shape, Williams dealt with a severe left calf injury before capturing a gritty 6-2, 6-7 (2-7), 6-2 victory over No. 10 Daniela Hantuchova in the fourth round at Wimbledon on Monday.

Williams was helped by a rain delay of more than hour near the end of the second set, displaying a lot more of mobility as she hammered big serves and ground strokes to carry her in the decisive set.

With the match tied at 5-5 in the second set, Williams fell to court with an apparent cramp before being attended to by the medical staff. At one point, the 25-year-old shrieked in pain while being treated.

Williams eventually struggled to stand before Hantuchova aced a serve and won another point to go ahead, 6-5. After a turnover where she had her calf wrapped, Williams shockingly held serve despite a severe lack of mobility, even firing an ace to force the tiebreaker.

The American was trailing 4-2 in the tiebreak when the rain started. After the delay, Williams came out with leggings. It appeared as if both of her calves had been wrapped.

Although Hantuchova swept through the first five points en route to taking the tiebreaker and a 1-0 lead in the third, Williams fought back behind some very powerful shots.

After breaking in the sixth game for a 4-2 edge, Williams overcame a tough challenge on her own serve before Hantuchova ended the match by dumping a backhand into the net off a strong return of serve by the American.

The timing of the injury seemed ironic for the two-time Wimbledon champion, who was forced to discuss what kind of shape she was in following her rout of Milagros Sequera in the third round on Friday.

While she was able to battle past a tough situation of Monday, the task will only get tougher for Williams as her matchup with the top-seeded Justine Henin looms in the quarterfinals.

Henin appears near the top of her game, especially after an easy progression into the last eight that included a 6-2, 6-2 win over Patty Schnyder on Monday.

Already winning both the Australian and French Opens, Henin is in search of her first Wimbledon crown.

There are two other fourth-round matches that are starting to begin, including one featuring third-seeded Jelena Jankovic of Serbia.

A semifinalist at the French Open, Jankovic is scheduled to face No. 18 Marion Bartoli of France.

Also, American Laura Granville is squaring off with Michaella Krajicek of the Netherlands. Granville is coming off an upset of No. 9 Martina Hingis in the third round on Friday.

Henin has barely broken a sweat in the tournament so far, and if Schnyder's world ranking of 15 promised some kind of challenge, it was quickly swatted away under dark skies at the All England Club.

"I was a little bit surprised that the match was that quick, you know," Henin said. "I was ready to have a good fight. Even if I knew that it's not the best surface (for) Patty, I thought I was really focused on my serve.

"It was pretty tough conditions out there; very windy. But I could keep control of the match. I could take it at the beginning of the match and keep it till the end. It's been very positive for me."

Henin had roared into a 3-0 lead over the Swiss player before many had taken their seats after an initial one-hour rain delay, and even being broken back in the fourth game had little effect.

Henin simply consolidated her advantage with her usual brand of fierce ground strokes proving too good for Schnyder, as the Belgian took the set in 31 minutes.

With the skies still threatening, Henin was in no mood to hang around and she broke Schnyder in the third game of the second set to take what would prove to be a match-winning advantage.

After going a double-break up, Henin served out to take the match in 56 minutes and finally set up the big quarterfinal test the women's tournament so desperately needs.

"Just going to try to keep going," Henin said. "Had a lot of matches in the last few weeks, which is good. It gives confidence. And I know every match is different. We're going to see what's going to happen."

In the bottom half of the draw, Venus Williams defied the curse of Court Two for the second time in seven days to reach the fourth round.

A three-time champion here, Venus Williams had to come from behind on the "graveyard of seeds" in her first-round match against Russia's Alla Kudryavtseva and was on the brink on Monday before securing a 6-2, 3-6, 7-5 win over Akiko Morigami.

"I think it's definitely invigorating to win a match like that," Venus Williams said. "Especially, I think she was playing well. To get to the third round of any Slam, you've got to play well. So I was playing against someone confident. Definitely winning this kind of match helps me going on in the tournament."

In a match that actually started on Saturday, the Japanese player appeared to lose her nerve when she served for the match at 5-3. But Venus Williams made no mistake, despite steady drizzle which turned into a mini downpour seconds after she clinched victory.

"She played tough," Venus Williams said. "She didn't give me too many points. I had to go out there and take it because I knew she was going to go for it."

Next up for Venus Williams will be second-seeded Maria Sharapova. The Russian is coming off a 6-3, 6-3 victory over Ai Sugiyama of Japan.

In other third-round results that finished before the second rain delay, sixth seed Ana Ivanovic, No. 5 Svetlana Kuznetsova and No. 11 Nadia Petrova all advanced.

Ivanovic, a surprise finalist at the French Open, finished off a 6-3, 6-2 victory over Aravane Rezai of France. The Serbian recorded 18 winners and four aces en route to reaching the fourth round here for the second straight year.

Ivanovic next will face Petrova, a 6-3, 7-6 (7-3) winner over Virginia Ruano Pascual of Spain.

Kuznetsova, a two-time quarterfinalist in this tournament, needed just two games to finish off Agnieszka Radwanska of Poland, 6-2, 6-3. The Russian's next opponent will be Tamira Paszek, who extended her surprising run by completing a 3-6, 6-2, 6-3 upset of No. 12 Elena Dementieva.

Ranked 54th in the world, the Austrian was down a set and up 1-0 in the second when play was halted Saturday.

Also in the third round, No. 14 Nicole Vaidisova of the Czech Republic set up a meeting with defending champion Amelie Mauresmo in the fourth after dispatching Victoria Azarenka of Bulgaria, 6-4, 6-2.

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