Kuznetsova leads charge of the Russians

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The Independent Online

Svetlana Kuznetsova led a Russian march into the women's fourth round yesterday, but not before a scare at the hands of Nicole Vaidisova, a 16-year-old tournament debutante. The No 5 seed, the reigning US Open champion, eventually prevailed 7-5, 6-7, 6-2, but had to save a set point in the opener, lost the second set on a tie-break and was broken in the opening game of the decider.

Kuznetsova will be joined in the second week by Elena Dementieva, Anastasia Myskina and Elena Likhovtseva. Their results also adhered to form and ranking.

Myskina, the No 9 seed, made heavy weather of getting past Jelena Jankovic, seeded No 17, 6-0, 5-7, 10-8. Likhovtseva, seeded No 6, took three sets to beat the No 22 seed, Italy's Silvia Farina Elia, 5-7, 6-4, 6-4. Dementieva, seeded No 13, moved past Mashona Washington 7-5, 6-1.

Vaidisova, a Czech citizen who trains at Nick Bollettieri's Florida academy, showed her potential by reaching a recent final in Istanbul. Yesterday, only inexperience on grass on big points cost her dear. She had a set point in the first but was unable to serve out at 5-4, hitting a forehand long on break point. Kuznetsova then saved a break point at 5-5 with an ace, and broke again with a cross-court backhand volley to win the opening set.

"You have to stay focused all the time, and I think I did that in the third set," said Kuznetsova, who lost her way in the second. "I made the first two breaks. Then she broke me but I broke her back, and that was the most important game."

"I think I played well, but I'm very disappointed because I had so many chances I didn't use," Vaidisova said. "I just didn't start the third set good and she's more experienced and showed it."

Myskina, the 2004 French Open champion, eased through her first set but had to haul her way back from 5-1 down in the decider, which lasted 86 minutes, having wasted three match points in the second.

Myskina conceded just 12 points in the first set and romped through it in 19 minutes. Jankovic held on and saved two match points in the second set. Myskina blew a third with a double fault, allowing Jankovic to break for 5-5.

Lifted by the break of serve, Jankovic held comfortably and Myskina berated herself at the changeover. She failed to recover her composure and dropped serve to hand her opponent the second set.

Myskina continued to grumble in the third set, but just as Jankovic was preparing to celebrate, Myskina pulled herself together and rattled off four games to level the set at 5-5. Jankovic's request for a bathroom break was denied by the umpire and she dropped her serve. Myskina failed to take advantage and the scores were again all square, at 8-8.

Myskina eventually closed out the set 10-8, after surviving a break point herself when Jankovic netted a tired backhand.

"I may not be playing my best tennis, but I am fighting," Myskina said. "I think the game is all about mental toughness. All the players play at nearly the same level and if you're mentally stronger you win the match."