Ivanovic comes through vs. Williams

Jan 23, 2008 - 3:09 PM MELBOURNE, Australia (Ticker) -- Ana Ivanovic survived a tough encounter with Venus Williams to secure her place in the semifinals of the Australian Open on Wednesday.

The fourth-seeded Serbian completed a 7-6 (7-3), 6-4 victory to enjoy a first career triumph over the No. 8 American and continue her stellar play since moving into the No. 3 spot in the world rankings on January 14.

Beating Williams for the first time in five meetings, Ivanovic set up a semifinal encounter with No. 9 Daniela Hantuchova, who took down Agnieszka Radwanska earlier in the day.

"I worked very hard in my offseason," Ivanovic said. "I'm really happy to see the results because there were moments I was struggling, of course, because it's important to realize that it has to be hard on your practice court so it will be easier for you in your matches."

Ivanovic has not lost a set at this $20.6 million hardcourt major, reaching the round of four for the first time since Wimbledon last year. She had her run at the All-England Club ended by Williams, who went on to claim her fourth title there.

"I thought I played some good tennis to win today," Ivanovic said. "I was looking forward for some revenge. I went out there and from the first moment on I tried to think only on each point."

In a first set that featured six breaks of serve in the opening seven games, Ivanovic jumped into an early 2-0 lead before Williams hit back.

"Obviously, it was a little bit strange, beginning of the match," Ivanovic said. "I thought we both felt more comfortable returning. So, you know, it was a little bit disappointing because in the previous matches, I was serving really well."

A crushing forehand off the serve of Williams then set up three break points for the Serbian, which she secured when the American hit a return into the net.

Williams, playing with her thigh heavily strapped, fought back to make it 3-2 and neither player could subsequently hold serve until Williams did so for the first time to level the match at 4-4.

The set headed to a tiebreaker and Ivanovic took control after reeling off five consecutive points before taking the upper hand in the match when Williams hammered a simple-looking backhand volley into the net.

A finalist here in 2003, Williams broke her opponent early in the second set to take a 2-0 lead but Ivanovic broke back on the way to evening the match at 3-3. The 20-year-old then made the decisive breakthrough three games later by breaking Williams to give her a chance to serve for the match.

Despite slipping into a 15-40 hole, Ivanovic battled back to deuce and claimed victory when the American hit a forehand well wide.

"I think she (Ivanovic) played good tennis today," Williams said. "Definitely I have to give a lot of credit to her. She played really well, made a lot of good shots. And, you know, I give her a lot of credit for playing good tennis.

"I think I moved, you know, okay today. I don't think I ran as many balls down or played offensively on the defensive shot as well as I have in the past. And I think those things definitely make a difference in the match."

Ivanovic figures to be the clear-cut favorite to emerge from the bottom of the draw, especially after the rising star Radwanska had her surprising run halted.

Despite being five years removed from her last appearance in the quarterfinals of a major, Hantuchova had a comfortable win over Radwanska.

Hantuchova made the semifinals of a Grand Slam for the first time in her career with a 6-2, 6-2 victory over the 29th-seeded Pole on Rod Laver Arena.

"I felt like I had a great opportunity to win this match, but I still had to go out there and play my best, which I think I did at times," Hantuchova said. "Yeah, I'm just extremely happy to be in the semis. It means a lot."

This was the fourth time that Hantuchova had been in the quarterfinals of a Grand Slam, with the last coming here in 2003 in a straight-sets loss to Venus Williams.

"I guess I had to get through all, you know, the tough times and get experience in order to be able to get to this stage," she said. "That's why I can appreciate moments like this much, much more. I'm definitely enjoying it and really happy."

Radwanska was unable to exert any real pressure on the Slovakian despite showing glimpses of the form that had allowed her to upset second seed Svetlana Kuznetsova and 14th-seeded Nadia Petrova on her way to the round of eight.

It was Hantuchova who struck first with a break early in the opening set before converting a sixth set point on Radwanska's serve to take it 6-2.

The Pole managed to pressure the ninth seed's serve at the start of the second set but Hantuchova held on before breaking Radwanska once again. Another break saw Hantuchova race into a 4-0 lead, but the 18-year-old Radwanska hit back with one of her own.

The Slovakian broke again immediately afterwards to move to the brink of victory but Radwanska was still fighting, securing another break with a forehand down the line.

However, it merely delayed the inevitable as Hantuchova wrapped up the match with a forehand that her opponent was unable to return.

Radwanska had beaten the 24-year-old Hantuchova in the only previous encounter, a second-round matchup in Zurich in October.

"Actually, I was playing against Daniela in Zurich, in winter, so not so long time ago," Radwanska said. "I beat her in two sets. But today was different. You know, she was playing very good. I made a few mistakes. I also have many chances, but I didn't use it. So next time."

Struggling with her serve, Radwanska was unable to put together the kind of comeback she had in her fourth-round match against Petrova. Despite facing deficits of 3-0 and 5-4 in the second set, the Pole rallied for a 1-6, 7-5, 6-0 win.

An owner of just one career singles title, Radwanska was playing in her first Grand Slam quarterfinal.

First prize is $1.28 million.

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