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Ilie scores ripping win over ninth seed Ferrero

Ilie scores ripping win over ninth seed Ferrero

Spanish ninth seed Juan Carlos Ferrero became the Australian Open's biggest casualty on Wednesday when he was beaten 3-6 6-2 6-1 1-6 6-2 in the second round by Andrew Ilie.

The excitable Australian celebrated his victory by ripping his shirt open and draping himself in the Australian flag, driving the Melbourne Park crowd into a frenzy after a two-and-a-half hour battle on court one.

Ferrero joined 11th seeded woman Chanda Rubin as the only seeds to fall in the first three days of the season-opening grand slam event.

Defending women's champion Lindsay Davenport and men's eighth seed Tim Henman were forced to dig deep to avoid a similar fate to Ferrero at the hands of game opponents.

Henman fought off a stiff challenge from Nicolas Lapentti of Ecuador, winning 6-1 7-6 7-6 to reach the third round.

Second seed Davenport suffered a lapse of concentration before recovering to beat German qualifier Greta Arn 6-2 4-6 6-2.

Four-times winner Monica Seles, the fourth seed, later beat unseeded Swiss Miroslava Vavrinec 6-2 6-3.

AUSTRALIAN REVENGE

Romanian-born Ilie exacted revenge for Australia by beating Ferrero, who was the hero of Spain's Davis Cup final triumph over Australia in Barcelona in December. Ilie had been with the Australian squad but did not play.

The chunky Ilie scrapped and counter-punched his way through five see-sawing sets, whipping top spin forehands past a tiring Ferrero. He screamed his delight after hitting a forehand winner past Ferrero on the final point.

He walked back onto court and ripped his shirt open at the urging of the crowd in a celebration ritual he showcased after winning his second career title on clay in Atlanta last year.

Henman was happy with his performance after fighting his way past Lapentti, a semifinalist in Melbourne in 1999.

"I think basically the first two sets were as good as I've played in this tournament," said Henman, who reached the fourth round last year.

"I played simple tennis, but I played it very well," he said.

The 26-year-old Briton was forced into a tiebreak in the second set after wasting three set points at 5-4.

Lapentti grabbed two breaks of serve to open a 3-0 lead in the third set despite needing strapping after twisting his ankle. But Henman, twice a Wimbledon semifinalist, fought back again.

ADRENALINE RUSH

"Having got that second set, that was such an adrenaline rush, I continued to rush my game for the first couple of games in the third set," Henman said.

Venus Williams's gravity-defying outfit revealed on Tuesday continued to grab attention on Wednesday, some former players fearing for her modesty in the lowcut, black-and-blue combination top.

"Every time Venus tossed up to serve I was thinking: 'Oh no, they won't fall out, will they?'," tour veteran Pam Shriver said in The Australian newspaper.

"Thankfully they didn't," she said.

The next chapter in the Williams fashion story was due to be played out later on Wednesday when Venus and younger sister Serena - the Wimbledon and Olympic doubles champions - play Canada's Renata Kolbovic and India's Niupama Vaidyanathan.

Davenport also entered the fashion stakes on Wednesday. Normally a stickler for tradition, she took to court in a psychadelic, '70s style pink, red and white skirt.

Belgium's Justine Henin - rated by Davenport and top seed Martina Hingis as an outside chance to win the Open - chalked up her 12th straight win in Australia this month by beating unseeded Frenchwoman Sarah Pitkowski 6-3 6-2 in 74 minutes.

PERSONAL PROBLEMS

After a year haunted by injury and personal problems she refuses to discuss, Henin has now strung together an impressive sequence in Australia after taking warm-up titles in the Gold Coast and Canberra.

"I am happy to have two of the world's best players say that about me," Henin, 18, said of Hingis and Davenport's assessment of her chances.

"Of course, my confidence is very high at the moment," said Henin, whose mother died of cancer when she was 12.

"There is too far to go in this event before I can start getting excited," she warned.

Henin next faces 14th seed Sandrine Testud of France. Testud was leading 6-4 5-2 when her unseeded Chinese opponent Yi Jing-Qian retired hurt.


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