Kuznetsova faces daunting quarter-final challenge

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The Independent Online

The absence of Jelena Jankovic and Ana Ivanovic may be a surprise, but otherwise the women's quarter-final line-up for the Australian Open here has a familiar look.

The remaining fourth round matches were completed here today to leave a last eight that features four Russians (Dinara Safina, Elena Dementieva, Svetlana Kuznetsova and Vera Zvonareva), an American (Serena Williams), a Frenchwoman (Marion Bartoli), a Spaniard (Carla Suarez Navarro) and an Australian (Jelena Dokic).

Williams and Kuznetsova are the only players among the group who have won a Grand Slam title, but Safina, Dementieva and Bartoli have all reached finals. Suarez Navarro and Dokic are the only unseeded members of the line-up.

Two of the fourth-round matches failed to go the distance. China's Jie Zheng, last year's Wimbledon semi-finalist, hurt her left wrist in a fall and was forced to quit when trailing Kuznetsova 4-1. Victoria Azarenka, meanwhile, left Rod Laver Arena in tears. The world No 14, from Belarus, had won the first set 6-3 and was trailing 4-2 in the second. She was reported to have been ill overnight and apparently felt unable to continue.

Kuznetsova, the 2004 US Open champion, will play Williams in the quarter-finals. They have met five times before, with the Russian recording her only victory in Stuttgart two years ago.

Dementieva is the form player among the last eight. The No 4 seed, who prepared for this tournament by winning the events in Auckland and Sydney, won her 14th match in a row when she beat Dominika Cibulkova 6-2, 6-2 in just an hour and a quarter.

Although she suffered an early break, Dementieva was soon into her stride. Once the Olympic champion had broken Cibulkova's serve to take a 3-2 lead she never looked back, winning nine games in a row before the Slovakian gave herself a measure of respectability by winning two games at the end of the second set.

Dementieva now meets Suarez Navarro, who extended her fine run with a 6-3, 6-2 victory over a fellow Spaniard, Anabel Medina Garrigues, having accounted for Venus Williams in the second round.

Suarez Navarro, who is through to her second Grand Slam quarter-final after making the last eight at Roland Garros last year, needed just 73 minutes to finish off Medina Garrigues. Despite her small frame – the world No 46 weighs less than 10 stone and stands just 5ft 4in tall – 20-year-old Suarez Navarro packs a hearty punch with her ground strokes and was much the stronger player.

Safina will be the clear favourite to emerge from the top half of the draw. In the quarter-finals she faces Dokic, who was looking exhausted at the end of her third successive three-set match on Sunday night, when she beat Russia's Alisa Kleybanova. The winner will meet Bartoli or Zvonareva in the semi-finals.

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