Ivanovic attempts to solve Williams

Jan 22, 2008 - 6:26 PM MELBOURNE, Australia (Ticker) -- Ana Ivanovic is in position to justify her new ranking.

The fourth-seeded Serbian attempts to reach her first Australian Open semifinal Wednesday when she faces eighth-seeded Venus Williams.

Ivanovic, 20, moved into the No. 3 spot in the world rankings on January 14 and has not lost a set at this $20.6 million hardcourt major. The clash with Williams will be her first true test since securing the career-high rank.

Ivanovic is well aware that she's had no success against the 27-year-old American, who has won all four previous meetings without dropping a set.

En route to winning her sixth Grand Slam title at Wimbledon last year, Williams defeated Ivanovic, 6-2, 6-4, in the semifinals. They met again in the round of 16 at the U.S. Open, where Williams posted a 6-4, 6-2 win.

"I'm a little bit of a different player than I was the last time I played (Williams)," Ivanovic said. "I have got even fitter and stronger on court and also these courts are a little bit slower than at the U.S. Open.

"So I think that definitely suits me better because she is a big server and she likes to go for big shots."

Williams, who lost to sister Serena in her only final appearance here in 2003, also has yet to drop a set, and the former No. 1 is obviously no stranger to the spotlight.

"I do consider myself a big-match player," said Williams, who went 8-2 against top-10 players in 2007 after the French Open. "I do enjoy those times, I enjoy the battle and I enjoy the challenge."

While the Ivanovic-Williams winner is the clear-cut favorite to emerge from the bottom of the draw, rising star Agnieszka Radwanska can't be overlooked at this point.

The 29th-seeded Pole has sent shockwaves through the bracket with upset victories over No. 2 Svetlana Kuznetsova and 14th-seeded Nadia Petrova.

In her fourth-round match with Petrova on Monday, the 18-year-old Radwanska rallied for a 1-6, 7-5, 6-0 win despite facing deficits of 3-0 and 5-4 in the second set.

An owner of just one career singles title, Radwanska will be appearing in her first Grand Slam quarterfinal when she faces No. 9 Daniela Hantuchova - a 1-6, 6-4, 6-4 winner against 27th-seeded Maria Kirilenko on Monday.

The 24-year-old Hantuchova - bidding to reach her first Grand Slam semifinal in this her 29th consecutive major - lost her only previous encounter with Radwanska in the second round at Zurich last season.

"(Radwanska is) a very tough player, very talented," Hantuchova said. "I played her in Zurich and lost, so obviously I will have to change something and make sure I play my best tennis."

Though her career has been marked by several baffling defeats in big spots, Hantuchova showed some character in her fourth-round win over Kirilenko.

The Slovakian claimed the match despite dropping the first set, committing 30 unforced errors and winning just 43-of-68 (63 percent) first-serve points.

"Yeah, it feels great. Definitely an exciting time," said Hantuchova, who was upset in the first round of the U.S. Open last season. "I was very proud the way I fought (Monday) because it was not easy, I was not playing well, especially in the first set.

"But I just kept fighting. I eventually turned it around. ... I just tried to focus on every point and just keep fighting. And, yeah, it paid off."

First prize is $1.28 million.






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