Venus is hot tip for title after blistering display

Williams looks unstoppable while Kuznetsova and Jankovic wilt in the heat
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The Independent Online

Phew, what a scorcher! Venus Williams and the sun were in blistering alignment here yesterday as the defending ladies singles champion powered into the second week while other leading seeds wilted in shocking fashion against teenage outsiders. The No 5 seed, Svetlana Kuznetsova, was beaten 6-2 7-5 by the 19-year-old world No 41, Sabine Lisicki. That upset came after the No 6 seed, Jelena Jankovic, had crashed out to a 17-year-old American qualifier, Melanie Oudin, 6-7 7-5 6-2.

Jankovic said that the heat, per se, was not the problem, but added: "After the first set I felt really dizzy and thought I was going to end up in hospital. I started to shake. I was losing my consciousness. I was really gonna lose it, fall down and just call the ambulance and leave the court." She said she was struggling with problems related to her period. "It's not easy being a woman sometimes."

It's not easy playing Venus at any time. Williams was first up on Centre Court, where it was 28 degrees in the shade (8F) at the start of play just after 1pm. It got much hotter. The five-times winner, looking for a third consecutive Wimbledon title and a sixth in all, beat Carla Suarez Navarro, 6-0 6-4.

Williams, surprisingly, lost to the Spaniard at the Australian Open this year but a repeat never looked remotely likely. Suarez Navarro was crushed in the first set. The first break of serve, in the very first game of the match, was down to errors by the Spaniard. The second break, to make the score 3-0, came because the Amazon from Compton seized the initiative. Her opponent had game point on serve. Venus moved to deuce with a double-handed backhand missile driven home low and hard on the run, and went to advantage at the net with a backhand volley that set up a smash. Venus rounded out that game with a massive forehand that elicited "Oooohs" from the crowd.

Ultimately power prevailed but Williams also used variety, deft touches and her enormous wingspan. She executed one killer drop shot that Suarez Navarro somehow managed to retrieve into a scooped lob attempt, only for Venus to win the point with a backhand volley at full stretch. She closed out the first set with three unreturned serves and an ace.

When her opponent won her first game (for 2-1 down in the second set), the packed crowd whistled and cheered in relief, repeating that support for the underdog when she broke for 2-2. But Williams crucially broke in the ninth game of the set and sealed the match at the first opportunity, at 2.47pm after an hour and 20 minutes.

"In Australia [against Suarez Navarro] I had a lot of opportunities but didn't take advantage of them," Williams said. "Today I realised that it wasn't the same match and I was determined to really run away with it." Williams will face Ana Ivanovic in the fourth round.

Venus's name has, famously, always been on the trophy, aka the Venus Rosewater Dish. On this evidence, and with other challengers falling by the wayside, the hottest tip on a sweltering afternoon is that a week today, you'll be reading about how she fared in the final. Lisicki, from Germany, lives and trains at the Florida academy of the veteran tennis coach, Nick Bollettieri. Her result was a shock but she has beaten Venus this year, in Charleston, and has been ascending the rankings. She faces Caroline Wozniacki in the fourth round.

The bigger shock is that Oudin, from Georgia, has also reached that stage. She is ranked No 124 in the world and played three qualifiers to make the main draw. This is only Oudin's third senior Slam event but she was a top-class junior and her success here has positive echoes for British tennis. Oudin was the No 1 seed for last year's Wimbledon girls' title, and was one of the scalps of Britain's Laura Robson as the latter claimed a famous home victory.

On a line of form that says Robson can beat Oudin, and Oudin has beaten Jankovic, a former world No 1, then Robson is some player. Not that Jankovic sees it that way, saying of Oudin: "From what I have seen, she can play if you let her play. But she cannot hurt you with anything. She doesn't have any weapons, from what I've seen."

Oudin described her win as "unbelievable". She added: "The fourth round at Wimbledon, I definitely did not see that coming." She faces Poland's Agnieszka Radwanska for a place in the quarter-finals. "When I was seven, when I started playing tennis, I saw Venus and Serena playing here and I was like, 'Mom, I really, really want to play there one day'," Oudin said. "She said, 'Go for it'. My parents have always been very supportive."

Oudin has a twin sister, Katherine, who also plays but with collegiate, not professional aspirations. Melanie said: "My goal has always been since I was little to become number one in the world one day. It's gonna take a lot more work and, you know, I'm gonna have to get better and better. But I'm willing to work on it."