Dementieva scrapes past Williams

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There was further evidence at the Nasdaq-100 Open here yesterday that Venus Williams can no longer win matches on one leg, although Elena Dementieva, the Russian fifth seed, had to save a match point before edging into the semi-finals, 6-3, 5-7, 7-6.

Williams, who is seeded to meet her younger sister, Serena, in the final, both having recovered from injury problems since contesting the Wimbledon final last July, twisted her right ankle while trying to intercept a Dementieva forehand when leading 6-5, 30-15 in the second set.

The American resumed after treatment but her movement, leaden by her standard to begin with, was further restricted.

Although the two-and-a-half-hour contest was entertaining, there were times when it seemed that neither player had what it took to finish off the other. Williams was reluctant to try her luck at the net, while Dementieva's serve, which let her down as she served for the match for the first time, at 5-4 in the second set, showed few signs of improvement in the final set.

The concluding point, at 6-3 in the tie-break, was in keeping with the error-strewn duel: Dementieva dollied up a second serve and Williams netted a forehand return.

Now that Andre Agassi and Roger Federer have departed the men's singles, Andy Roddick may be primed to make his mark on the season. "I've kind of been knocking on the door of a big result all year long," the American second seed said after defeating Guillermo Canas, of Argentina, to advance to the quarter-finals.

Roddick also reached this stage of the Masters Series event here in Florida in 2001, stunning Pete Sampras on the way. Last September Roddick confirmed his potential by succeeding Sampras as the US Open champion.

While keen to progress here, Roddick need not have seen Agassi's fourth-round loss to the Argentinian Agustin Calleri or Federer's second-round defeat by the 17-year-old Rafael Nadal, of Spain, to put him on his guard. Roddick, who enjoys huge local support, is due to meet Spain's Carlos Moya, who is a test for anyone if fit and in form. "I kind of cheesed through both matches I played against Carlos before," Roddick said.

The 33-year-old Agassi, a winner of the title six times, reacted with characteristic sharpness when asked if defeats like the one to Calleri, 6-2, 7-6, changed his thinking about his future. "No," he said. "Those questions do though." He added: "I played well in Australia, played well in Indian Wells, and was playing well this week but just ran into a guy who played a lot better."

Calleri's quarter-final opponent is the unseeded American Vince Spadea, whose three-set win against the ninth-seeded Paradorn Srichaphan, of Thailand, took his recent run of form to 10 wins in his last 11 matches.

The 29-year-old Spadea, who was a contender for a place in the United States Davis Cup team to play Sweden over the Easter weekend, impressively disguised his disappointment at being overlooked. Patrick McEnroe, the United States captain, watched Spadea's match against Srichaphan. "I saw Patrick," Spadea said. "He said, 'Good match, well played the way you stepped it up in the second set'." McEnroe decided to rely on the younger legs of Mardy Fish for the tie. "My five-set record is pretty good, actually," Spadea added. "I don't think fitness or speed is lacking because of my age. Maybe it's just whatever my limitations are in general."

Nadal's fine contribution to the event was terminated in the fourth round by the Chilean Fernando Gonzalez, who won 7-6, 4-6, 6-2. Gonzalez next plays Romania's Andrei Pavel.