Williams and Hingis strike back at Rios's low blow

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The Independent Online

Marcelo Rios has never minced his words, but his latest diatribe has made him many enemies among the women at Melbourne Park.

Venus Williams and Martina Hingis ganged up on Rios yesterday, following his assertion that the early rounds of the women's singles at the Australian Open have proven "a joke" compared to the men's.

In contrast to the men's draw, where the No 7 seed Tommy Haas is the highest-ranked player left, the top eight women have come through the opening week unscathed, with the ninth seed Sandrine Testud the highest-profile casualty.

The displays of Williams and Hingis yesterday seemed to add weight to the Chilean's argument as both progressed to the quarter-finals with sub 50-minute wins. But Hingis said: "I think if I played with him one time he'd change his mind."

Hingis raced into the last eight with a 6-1, 6-0 defeat of Amanda Coetzer and has dropped only nine games in her four matches. Her next opponent is the 21-year-old Italian Adriana Serra Zanetti who beat the Slovakian Martina Sucha in the quarter-final in which Serena Williams would have played but for an ankle injury.

Williams, the second seed and favourite, beat Magdalena Maleeva 6-0, 6-3. Afterwards, she was as defensive as Hingis, saying: "I enjoy the women's game. We are entitled to be here and I think it's interesting enough in the early rounds."

Williams has complained of left knee problems this week. Against Maleeva she had two break points against each of her three service games in the first set. But she recovered with ease to race through the set in a mere 19 minutes. Maleeva earned a big cheer from the crowd when she won her first game of the match in the second game of the second set. But Williams broke easily two games later and then shut Maleeva out with unplayable winners.

She next faces her fellow American Monica Seles who was 4-2 up before her opponent Anabel Medina Garrigues, of Spain, injured a knee and retired.