Mauresmo muscles on but Ivanovic is rising rapidly

Self-confident No 1 seed strides on as teenage Serb dents the dominance of the Russians
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The Independent Online

Amélie Mauresmo will become Ladies Singles champion this Saturday if she maintains her first-week form. The draw is opening up and last night's 59-minute 6-1 6-2 annihilation of Australia's Nicole Pratt means she has made it through to the last 16 for the loss of nine games.

The world No 1 and No 1 seed here has been a semi-finalist in her last three Wimbledons. The exit of defending champion Venus Williams and the indifferent form of Maria Sharapova mean France's Mauresmo has an excellent chance of cruising into the final. The vastly experienced Australian was almost made to look a fool in the early evening glow of Court One.

Mauresmo was known as the choker in the pack, and may retain that image in France unless she wins the French Open, but proved she can handle pressure by winning her first Grand Slam, the Australian Open, and two other titles at the start of the year. She serves well and the total timing of her lifted backhand is succulent - one of the finest sights in tennis. She is confident she will get better and feels no pressure being No 1.

Mauresmo, 26, said: "I am very comfortable being the No 1 seed and very proud of it. I feel everything is coming together. Now I have to keep that going."

She will have to first maintain her form this week against the rapidly rising Serb Ana Ivanovic, who yesterday put a dent in Wimbledon's Russian revolution. There are 10 Russian women ranked in the world's top 100. Seven of them repeated the history they created at last year's Wimbledon by making it through to the last 32 of this year's Ladies' Singles.

But it was one of only two Serbs in the world's top 200, Ivanovic, who upset the Russian magnificent seven yesterday. Ivanovic, 18, set up a fourth round clash with Mauresmo by defeating the No 14 seed Dinara Safina, sister of former Australian and US Open champion Marat Safin.

Safina hit the self-destruct button against the highly promising Ivanovic, who came back from a set and 4-2 down to win 3-6 7-6 6-1. Ivanovic deserved her win, though, hitting consistently heavy groundstrokes none better than a stunning forehand down the line to clinch the match. The Belgrade teenager has reached four quarter-finals this year, impressive runs which included a hard court victory over Mauresmo.

Safina aside, another Russian who appeared to be in trouble was Anastasia Myskina, who looked ready to do a David Beckham and vomit during her 6-3 6-4 win over Spain's Anabel Medina Garrigues.

No 9 seed Myskina looked extremely off colour after taking the first set when she called on the trainer. It transpired she was having "breathing difficulties" induced by the intense heat in SW 19 yesterday when temperatures fell just short of 100F on the show courts. Myskina, 24, reached the quarter-finals last year, but will need to raise her game in the next round, where she faces Jelena Jankovic, the other top 200 Serb, who defeated Williams in their third-round match.

Myskina won the French Open two years ago against fellow countrywoman Elena Dementieva, who was in turgid Court Two third-round action against yet another Russian, Elena Likhovtseva. Neither woman seemed able to sustain any decent standard of consistency, illustrated by seven breaks of serve in the first set, which Dementieva won 7-5 before taking the second 6-3.

A relieved Dementieva sat giggling in her chair as she celebrated her run into the fourth round. Maybe she had already heard the whooping from neighbouring Court Three, where American Shenay Perry was a 7-5 6-3 winner over Austrian Sybille Bammer.

Perry is ranked only 62 in the world so Dementieva will be odds-on to progress to a quarter-final, where she is seeded to face former champion Maria Sharapova. The 2004 champion next plays Italian No 16 seed Flavia Pennetta, a 6-2 6-3 winner over China's Shuai Peng.