Four out of the five British players in action at the Australian Open qualifying tournament here defied the 40-degree heat to emerge as winners yesterday. Anne Keothavong, Elena Baltacha and Katie O'Brien all won their first-round matches and Jamie Baker reached the men's third round by beating Austria's Alexander Peya 7-6, 6-4.
Keothavong beat Argentina's Jorgelina Cravero 6-4, 6-4, while Baltacha and O'Brien, facing France's Virginie Pichet and Darya Kustova, of Belarus, respectively, went through when their opponents retired after losing the first set. Mel South had the toughest task of the British women and was beaten 6-3, 3-6, 6-2 by Thailand's Tamarine Tanasugarn.
The British No 1 Andy Murray is the No 9 seed for the Australian Open, with Roger Federer and Justine Henin the top seeds. There were few surprises in the list, based on the world rankings, and Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic, Nikolay Davedenko and David Ferrer round out the top five in the men's draw.
On the women's side, Henin is followed by the Russian Svetlana Kuznetsova, the Serbian pairing of Jelena Jankovic and Ana Ivanovic while Kuznetsova's compatriot Maria Sharapova is ranked fifth. The women's champion Serena Williams has been seeded seventh, one place ahead of her sister Venus.
Henin set up a final against Kuznetsova after beating Ivanovic at the Sydney International yesterday. Henin booked her place in the final with a 6-2, 2-6, 6-4 win while Kuznetsova advanced after a tough 7-5, 7-6 win over Czech Nicole Vaidisova.