Venus' return blown out by Hantuchova

It is doubtful whether Daniela Hantuchova flounced back into the locker room at Devonshire Park and proudly proclaimed, "No one beats Daniela Hantuchova 11 times in a row", as Vitas Gerulaitis was supposed to have done after ending a run of 16 consecutive defeats to Jimmy Connors.

The leggy Slovak said her record against Venus Williams never entered her head but she looked pretty happy when she brought Williams's comeback to a halt at the Aegon International here yesterday. There are, however, the mitigating circumstances of Venus's five-month lay-off.

There are limits to what even the Williams sisters can achieve and winning a third match in four days against the cream of the women's game after such absence turned out to be one of them. In cold, blustery conditions that would have tested a skilled yachtsman never mind a tennis player, she found Hantuchova just a bit too steady for her – just as the world No1 Caroline Wozniacki had done at the French Open – and she lost 6-2, 5-7, 6-2.

Because of the wind Venus did not serve as impressively as she had done against the former world No1 Ana Ivanovic the previous day. In fact, in the penultimate game she mistimed a serve so badly it flew off the frame and veered out of the ground in the general direction of Pevensey Bay. Even so it was all further good practice for Venus. Her sister Serena, who departed the tournament a day earlier, will no doubt find her in good voice at their Wimbledon lodgings.

She revealed that she and Serena like to sing to one another when they are at home as a way of encouraging one another. "I specialise in '80s and alternative rock," she said. "I sing Tears for Fears, Blondie, OMD, Michael Jackson, Bobby Brown and Whitney Houston – although I'll never let you hear me sing that.

"I don't know if you ever tried it, but it makes you feel pretty good. I think another big motivation, too, is I can hear when she goes to practice because the door beeps. Then I know I have to get up and go, too. I think she feels the same way."

It was the lure of the All England Club rather than a beeping door that got her back onto the match court, although she admitted she probably would have delayed her return from her hip injury a couple more weeks had it not been Wimbledon. "There's nothing like playing matches," she said. "It doesn't matter how hard you push yourself in practice, there's nothing like a match."

Not only had Hantuchova lost 10 times out of 10 to her opponent – and eight times of nine to Serena – she had only ever won one set against Venus, so serving for the second one in nine years took some nerve. And when Venus came back to level at one set all, last week's finalist in Birmingham stayed strong.

Slovak now meets Czech in the semi-finals after Petra Kvitova beat Poland's Agnieszka Radwanska 1-6, 6-2 7-6. The other semi-final will be between Australia's Sam Stosur and France's Marion Bartoli.

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