Serena fights back in Melbourne heat

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The Independent Online

For a moment or two it looked as if four Russian women might line up in the semi-finals of a Grand Slam tournament for the first time, but you learn never to dismiss the chances of Serena Williams.

The world No 2 lost the first set to Svetlana Kuznetsova here today in the last of the Australian Open women's quarter-finals and went close to defeat in the second set, but by the end she was celebrating her 15th appearance in the last four of a Grand Slam event. Williams won 5-7, 7-5, 6-1 and now plays Elena Dementieva, a 6-2, 6-2 winner over Spain's Carla Suarez Navarro. Vera Zvonareva and Dinara Safina meet in the other semi-final.

The last two sets of Williams' quarter-final were played with the roof of Rod Laver Arena closed after organisers invoked the tournament's "extreme heat policy" as the air temperature climbed above 40 degrees. Matches on outside courts were suspended.



Kuznetsova, the No 8 seed, had appeared the more comfortable in the stifling heat. Williams had trouble finding a rhythm on her serve and was broken as early as the third game. Further breaks were exchanged until Kuznetsova took control by breaking for the third time and then serving out for the set.

The players left the arena for 25 minutes to allow the roof to be closed and on their return Williams looked the more refreshed. However, it was Kuznetsova who again made the first break, in the seventh game. At 5-4 the Russian served for the match, but a combination of her errors - including a dreadful miss on an easy volley - and a fine winner down the line by Williams turned the course of the match.

Two games later the world No 2 broke serve again, thanks to some splendid returns, to level the match. Kuznetsova held on in the decider until dropping serve in the fourth game, whereupon Williams took control.

Williams has won this tournament every other year since her first triumph in 2003. It was here two years ago that she announced her return to the top flight after two years of indifferent results, winning the tournament when ranked No 81 in the world. In the last eight Grand Slam events she has reached four quarter-finals and three finals, winning here in 2007 and in New York last September and losing to sister Venus at Wimbledon last July.

Although Dementieva served 10 double faults, the Olympic champion rarely looked in danger of going out to the unseeded Suarez Navarro once she had won a marathon sixth game in the first set. It went to 11 deuces and Dementieva won it on her seventh game point.

Suarez Navarro started nervously, losing the first four games, but although she eventually found her rhythm on her big ground strokes the 20-year-old Spaniard, playing in her second Grand Slam quarter-final, struggled to string points together. Dementieva went 4-1 up at the start of the second set and served out for victory after an hour and a half.

Dementieva said she was surprised the roof had not been closed for the match. "When you see the forecast and it says it's going to be 41 today, 43 tomorrow, the hottest week in a month, why not close the roof?" she said. "I had some pretty hot days in Sydney playing in my last tournament. But I think if you have a roof why not use it?

"The sun was pretty strong. Usually when you play at 11am it's not that strong, but today it was a very dangerous sun and very strong. It was very hard to serve on one side, so instead of just going for the good serve, you were just trying to put the ball into the service court somehow because you couldn't see the ball."

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