Henin and Nadal sizzle as Davenport's Open ends
Justine Henin and Rafael Nadal thundered into the Australian Open third round on Wednesday, but Lindsay Davenport's comeback Grand Slam was abruptly ended by Maria Sharapova.sports Updated: Jan 16, 2008 17:58 IST
Justine Henin and Rafael Nadal thundered into the Australian Open third round on Wednesday, but Lindsay Davenport's comeback Grand Slam was abruptly ended by Maria Sharapova.
Henin, the world number one and top seed, demolished Russian Olga Poutchkova 6-1 in the opening set, but was given a wake up call when stretched to 7-5 in the second before clocking her 30th straight win.
A rampaging Nadal put on a dominant display against hapless Frenchman Florent Serra, racing to a 6-0, 6-2, 6-2 victory to ensure he stays on track while sixth seed Andy Roddick made short work of Germany's Michael Berrer.
Women's defending champion Serena Williams was also firing in a 6-3, 6-1 pounding of Chinese qualifier Meng Yuan, but the curtains came down on Davenport's tournament.
Fifth seed Sharapova overwhelmed the unseeded American 6-1, 6-3 in her first Grand Slam since giving birth to a son.
The diminutive Henin, who missed last year's Australian Open amid personal problems, admitted she lost some focus in the second set, but never felt threatened.
"Well, I played a good first set. I was well into the match and played very aggressive and I did a good job in the first," said the Belgian.
"And yeah, then lost a little bit of the intensity, a little bit of the rhythm on my serve. And then when she came back at 5-5 I understood it was time to push myself a little bit more."
Henin, the red-hot favourite to claim her first Australian Open since 2004, now faces Italy's Francesca Schiavone, the 25th seed who ousted Angelique Kerber of Germany 6-2, 6-3.
Spain's Nadal, the French Open champion, set up a third round clash with 28th seed Gilles Simon of France following his comprehensive mauling of Serra.
Nadal's consummate victory followed his sterner straight sets opener on Monday against Serbian qualifier Viktor Troicki, who made him work much harder.
"The important thing is I play much better. I played at a very high level in the first set," Nadal said.
"I'm happy about my improvement after first round, and especially I improved a lot with my serve and with the forehand."
The muscular Spaniard is seen as one of the few men capable of derailing the Roger Federer juggernaut as it hurtles towards a 13th Grand Slam, but he has never been beyond the quarter-finals here in three previous attempts.
Roddick, who could meet Nadal in the last eight on the seedings, rolled past Berrer 6-2, 6-2, 6-4.
"He was trying to hit the ball around the court and it was a good workout ahead of my next match," said Roddick, a three semi-finalist here.
A fired-up Williams delivered an ominous warning to rivals eyeing her Australian Open crown when she swatted aside China's Meng.
The American displayed a brand of fist-pumping aggression missing from her tentative opening match performance, receiving a code violation for swearing in jubilation after blasting down a powerful backhand winner.
"It was a satisfying win," she said. "I felt like I played better groundstroke-wise than I did in my first match."
Sharapova said she had to be at the top of her game against three-time Grand Slam champion Davenport, who has shown outstanding form since returning to the tour in September less than four months having a baby.
"I approached it like it was a final ever since I took a peek at the draw and saw that Lindsay was my second round," the Florida-based 20-year-old said.
"From the day I found out I might play her I started working towards her game. I wanted my coach to hit the ball as hard as he can for five days because she's one of the biggest hitters out there."
Undeterred, Davenport vowed to continue her comeback and make the top 10 by the end of the year.
"I believe I can get back into the top 10 by the end of the year. I obviously need a lot more tournaments to play and need to improve my level, but I totally believe in myself that I can achieve that," she said.