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Tennis-Hingis steers straight for Williams sisters

Tennis-Hingis steers straight for Williams sisters

Top seed Martina Hingis stayed on a collision course with the Williams sisters on Thursday when she sped past Belgian Els Callens 6-1 6-0 to reach the third round of the Australian Open.

Venus Williams stayed in the race to meet Hingis when she swept past U.S. compatriot Meghann Shaughnessy 6-3 7-6 while her younger sister Serena overpowered Russia's Nadejda Petrova 6-3 6-2.

Men's fifth seed and Olympic champion Yevgeny Kafelnikov hit a few speed bumps, though, as he struggled to a 6-2 3-6 3-6 6-3 6-0 win over Germany's Nicolas Kiefer in an enthralling 187-minute second round match on centre court at Melbourne Park.

Fourth seed Magnus Norman of Sweden steered an easier course into the third round with a 7-6 6-3 6-0 win over Frenchman Fabrice Santoro.

Australian teenager Lleyton Hewitt then played chicken with German Tommy Haas, coming from behind to win 7-5 7-6 6-4 win.

It was another crowd-pleasing, aggressive showing from the Seventh-seeded Hewitt after Tuesday's five-set win over Swede Jonas Bjorkman.

The 19-year-old Australian powered past Haas despite falling 5-0 behind in the opening set.

"I just about felt like I was going to lose it," Hewitt said of his 183-minute tussle with Haas.

"To my credit I hung in there, kept fighting, got the breaks when I needed to and played the big points well," said Hewitt, who won a lead-up tournament in Sydney last week.

HEADING IN THE RIGHT DIRECTION

Hingis, a finalist here the last four years and champion three times, may have to beat both Williams this year just to reach the final.

"I think I'm getting there, I'm going in the right direction," she said after her 40-minute demolition of Callens.

The draw, which has put her in the same half as the headline grabbing American sisters, will make it tough for her to make up for lean Grand Slam pickings of late. The 20-year-old has not captured a grand slam title since she won in Melbourne in 1999.

"I'm hoping for another one, that's for sure," Hingis said of her grand slam drought. "If it will be here, that's great."

Trend-setter Venus, the U.S. Open and Wimbledon champion is drawn to meet Hingis in the semifinals. Younger sister Serena is scheduled to face the Swiss in the quarters.

Venus rolled through the first set of her match and raced to a 4-1 lead in the second before briefly losing her way against Shaughnessy.

The third seed lost four straight service games, allowing 31st-ranked Shaughnessy to push the second set into a tiebreak, which Venus claimed 7-3 to set up a third round meeting with Czech Denisa Chladkova.

"I was impatient and trying to hit winners at the wrong times, she said of her second set lapse.

CONTROVERSIAL OUTFIT

Venus was again wearing the controversial outfit which has dominated the headlines since she unveiled it on Tuesday.

The 20-year-old, a fashion design student at a Florida university, appeared to have made some slight alterations to her new outfit to make it slightly less revealing, but still tugged at it constantly to keep it in place.

She later fended off questions about the top seeming awkward to play tennis in.

"Oh I love the outfit - very relaxed, very confident and just beautiful," she said.

Serena, who beat Hingis in the 1999 U.S. Open final, wore a more modest dress against Petrova but her performance was just as eye-catching.

"When the big match comes, when it comes down to a point where you need it...I feel like I'm in there. That's what I need to feel," she said.

Kafelnikov, runner-up in Melbourne last year and champion the year before, had to work hard to live up to his recent Australian Open record.

The Russian admitted to "losing it" in the fourth set against a consistent Kiefer, the German plugging away from the baseline and forcing Kafelnikov into error.

"I was pushed 100 percent to the limit and it's quite helpful to the confidence," he said. "Today was a big step for me."

Kafelnikov turned the match around in the fourth set, which had got off to a bad start when he smashed a ball into the stands following a double fault. The fault handed Kiefer a service break and the Russian was also warned for ball abuse.

"I just got frustrated. I was a break down in the fourth and I just lost it a bit," Kafelnikov said. "I was able to calm down and it helped," he said.

Kafelnikov's compatriot and ninth seed Elena Dementieva almost became another women's casualty but fought back from match point down to beat German qualifier Andrea Glass 2-6 7-6 6-3.

Amy Frazier was not so lucky, the off-form 16th seed beaten easily 6-4 6-1 by Italy's Rita Grande. The Italian beat Frazier on the way to winning her first career title in Hobart last week.

Seeded Frenchwomen Mary Pierce and Amelie Mauresmo had no such trouble, advancing to the third round in double quick time.

Seventh seed Pierce beat unseeded Argentine Mariana Diaz-Oliva 6-2 6-2 in under an hour while 13th seed Mauresmo outclassed Australia's Nicole Pratt 6-0 7-5.

On the men's side, 11th seed Franco Squillari of Argentina headed for the exit after he was beaten 3-6 6-2 6-4 7-5 by Canadian journeyman Daniel Nestor. Tenth seed Wayne Ferreira of South Africa beat Frenchman Julien Boutter 3-6 6-2 6-2 6-3.


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