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Fourth seed Dementieva squeaks through

sports Updated: Jan 20, 2009 09:42 IST

AFP
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Russian fourth seed Elena Dementieva survived a gruelling test in the Australian Open first round on Tuesday to defeat Germany's Kristina Barrois in furnace-like conditions at Melbourne Park.

The Beijing Olympic gold medallist was pushed to the limit in the 7-6 (7/4), 2-6, 6-1 win, emerging victorious after more than two hours to take her recent unbeaten run to 11 matches.

Dementieva is widely regarded as a dark horse for the championship after already winning two titles this year but may need time to recover from the draining encounter against Barrois.

"I'm just happy to survive," she said.

"I've played a lot of tennis recently and it was very hot out there."

Dementieva made a slow start, conceding two early service breaks to trail Barrois 4-1 after 27 minutes.

She was left flat-footed as Barrois dominated the early exchanges with her powerful serve, the German blasting down five aces to Dementieva's one as the score went to 5-2.

But Barrois blew the chance to serve out the set at 5-3 and Dementieva bounced back to a take a 6-5 lead.

She still could not shake off the tenacious German and the first set went to a tie break that Dementieva won 7-4 after a draining 65 minutes on court.

The second set followed a similar pattern to the first as Barrois snatched two breaks from a struggling Dementieva.

The German did not repeat her earlier choke serving for the set at 5-2, taking the match to a decider.

Dementieva appeared refreshed after a 10 minute break between sets allowed under the tournament's extreme heat rules, coming out firing to race to a 5-0 lead then wrapping up the set after 29 minutes.