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Davenport Hobbles to Win Over Kuznetsova

She re-injures her ankle but the Russian fails to take advantage. Henin-Hardenne is her next opponent.

January 22, 2006|Lisa Dillman | Times Staff Writer

MELBOURNE, Australia — An injured Lindsay Davenport late at a Grand Slam tournament almost always adds up to one inevitable result: Davenport is out of the event.

But form was reversed today at the Australian Open, namely because Svetlana Kuznetsova of Russia was across the net, simply unable to take advantage of Davenport's lack of mobility in the second set because of an injured left ankle.

The top-seeded Davenport, of Laguna Beach, held on to beat No. 14 Kuznetsova, 6-2, 6-4, in 59 minutes in the fourth round. Ankle permitting, in the quarterfinals she will face No. 8 Justine Henin-Hardenne of Belgium, who has not lost to Davenport since 2002.

Henin-Hardenne beat Virginia Ruano Pascual of Spain, 6-0, 6-3, at Vodafone Arena. Her match, as well as Davenport's at Rod Laver Arena, were played with the roofs closed. The tournament once again invoked the extreme heat policy and did not start any matches on the outside courts because temperatures soared past 100 degrees, the warmest day of the tournament.

Kuznetsova thought the fast indoor conditions favored Davenport, who eased through the first set in 18 minutes and took a 3-0 lead in the second before the left ankle became an issue.

Davenport first injured it late in her third-round match against Maria Kirilenko of Russia, moving forward to the net and turning over on it on the hot, sticky Rebound Ace surface. She jammed it again today in the fourth game of the second set and twice needed attention from a trainer because of swelling.

She said she planned on seeing a doctor later in the day for additional testing and would put the foot up for 48 hours and hope for the swelling to go down.

Apparently, Davenport re-injured the ankle on the first point when she was serving at 3-0 in the second.

"I remember as the rally went on thinking like, 'Oh, God, it's getting worse,' " she said. "I'm not actually sure if it's when I landed on my serve or the first ball or second ball I hit. But after that, I had either hurt it a little bit worse or jammed it or whatever I did. I double-faulted next point. I knew then."

Afterward, Davenport allowed herself a brief moment of self-pity, contemplating the freakish run of injuries to hit her late in Slams, including one in a semifinal loss to Kuznetsova at the U.S. Open in 2004 and the Wimbledon final last year against Venus Williams.

"It's funny. I was in the locker room right after with Mary Jo [Fernandez] and Corina [Morariu], I was like, 'You know, train really hard, try to get everything that I normally injure better, and then I trip. Something happens like that on the court,' " Davenport said. "It's a little frustrating.

"Obviously, I'm brought back down to earth by two of the most levelheaded, great friends anyone could have. They're like, 'It's tennis. It happens. You'll be OK.' There's a moment of two minutes where I'm like, 'I can't believe this now happens of all things.' But, gosh, I'm still in the tournament."

That's thanks to Kuznetsova's mistakes in the second set. Davenport, who led, 3-0, had dropped four straight games and was struggling with her movement. But Kuznetsova was hard-pressed to put a return in play and Davenport held at love to pull to 4-4.

Or, as TV commentator Tracy Austin said politely: "The brain took a vacation."

Davenport was asked about the turn of events. "She definitely gave me a reprieve at 3-4 where I really think I only hit one or two balls that game, and she was missing a lot and going for shots," she said. "That obviously helped open the door after I'd lost four games in a row and struggling."

Earlier, the first arrival into the women's quarterfinal was No. 6 Nadia Petrova of Russia, who eliminated countrywoman Elena Vesnina, 6-3, 6-1, in 62 minutes. Vesnina, 19, playing her first Grand Slam event, had 35 unforced errors to Petrova's 13.

Despite Petrova's easy path here -- she has not dropped a set -- she announced her intention to dismiss her coach, Alexander Mityaev.

"He's a good person and tennis wise he's not bad," she said. "But our characters don't fit together. He's a bit too soft for me. I'll be looking for someone else after this tournament."

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