Self-destructive Safina falls to Serb and own folly

Teenaged Ivanovic flies the flag for Serbia's women players and dents Russian dominance
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The Independent Online

There are 10 Russian women ranked in the world's top 100 and 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 Championship.

But it was one of only two Serbs in the world's top 200, Ana Ivanovic, who upset the Russian magnificent seven yesterday. Ivanovic, 18, set up a potential fourth-round clash against the world No 1, Amélie Mauresmo, by defeating the 14th seed Dinara Safina, the burly sister of the former Australian and US Open champion Marat Safin.

Safina, as is often her brother's wont, 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. Marat himself threw away a two-set lead before losing in the men's singles second round last Friday.

The rapidly improving 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, attracting a growing army of male admirers to her matches, has reached four quarter-finals this year, impressive runs which featured two victories over top 10 players including a hard-court victory over Mauresmo, in Sydney.

Ivanovic has a big serve to match her booming groundstrokes and facing the first seed on grass in what will also be a Wimbledon show-court debut is a prospect which does not seem to trouble her.

"I'll be excited, but it won't bother me," Ivanovic insisted. "I'll try to focus more on my game and what I should do to hurt her and make her maybe defend a little bit more.

"I think it just most important to focus on what I should do than what she is doing. I never played here on Centre Court, or Court One either. So, yeah, I'm very excited. But I'm sure it's going to be a good match and I'm going to try and do my best. We'll see. I like grass and I'm obviously enjoying my time here. I think with my serve I can do a lot more and I'm trying to improve that."

Safina aside, another Russian who appeared to be in trouble was Anastasia Myskina, who looked ready to do a David Beckham and vomit on the grass during her 6-3 6-4 win over Spain's Anabel Medina Garrigues, the 23rd seed.

Myskina, seeded ninth, looked extremely off colour after taking the first set when she called on the trainer and appeared to be crying, while regularly blowing her nose. It transpired she was having "breathing difficulties" induced by the intense heat in SW19 yesterday when temperatures fell just short of 100F on the show courts.

Myskina, 24, reached the quarter-finals here last year, but will need to raise her game in the next round, where she can expect to play the reigning champion Venus Williams, if she is to repeat her best-ever Grand Slam performance of two years ago, when she won a unique all-Russian French Open final.

That historic victory came against Elena Dementieva, the seventh seed at this year's Championships, who was in turgid Court Two third-round action against yet another Russian, Elena Likhovtseva, seeded 25.

Neither woman seemed able to sustain any decent standard, as was illustrated by the seven breaks of serve in the first set, which Dementieva eventually won 7-5. Likhovtseva then required lengthy treatment and subsequent strapping on her lower right leg before going on to lose the second set 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 the neighbouring Court Three, where the American Shenay Perry was a 7-5 6-3 winner over the Austrian Sybille Bammer. Perry is ranked only No 62 in the world so Dementieva will be odds on to progress to a quarter-final, when she is seeded to face the former champion Maria Sharapova.