Wimbledon women's round-up: Hantuchova calls the tune to destroy Zheng rhythm

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The Independent Online

The scale of the task so bravely essayed by Laura Robson on Monday was put in encouraging perspective yesterday when Daniela Hantuchova beat last year's semi-finalist, Zheng Jie, 6-3, 7-5.

Zheng's run here last year had seemed to offer fleeting hope that there was more depth to the women's tour than tends to appear the case. But she arrived here in poor form, involved only briefly at the French Open, Birmingham and Eastbourne.

Even so her Slovakian opponent ensured that she could never settle into a rhythm. Whether she can now develop the confidence to proceed through a quarter that still contains Serena Williams remains to be seen. There was a discouraging ebb and flow to a match that featured eight service breaks. At 4-5 in the second set, for instance, Zheng looked down and out only for Hantuchova to let her back into the match with unforced errors. But she promptly broke back, and served out to set up a clash with the Japanese veteran, Ai Sugiyama, who beat Arantxa Parra Santonja.

Dominika Cibulkova had less trouble seeing off Urszula Radwanska, 6-2, 6-4, and will now meet Elena Vesnina, who won a Russian showdown with Vera Dushevina.

The most brutal exhibition of the day came on Court Two, where Victoria Azarenka did not drop a single game against Ioana Raluca Olaru. The No 8 seed required just 24 minutes to settle the first set, and Olaru will have little encouragement to offer fellow Romanian, Sorana Cirstea, who is next in line after beating Sania Mirza.

Azarenka has won her first three singles titles this year and is prowling dangerously in the same quarter as Serena Williams and Hantuchova. Apart from having shown her Grand Slam pedigree with mixed doubles titles at Flushing Meadow and Roland Garros, Azarenka also has two junior doubles titles in SW19 on her CV.

Her first two attempts at the Ladies' Championship here ended in the third round, but the bookmakers now make her the shortest in their betting from outside the Williams family.

Nadia Petrova, who knocked Azarenka out last year, meanwhile made short work of Shahar Peer on Court 14, thrashing the Israeli 6-3, 6-2 in just 70 minutes. She may hope for a rather more glamorous court in the third round, however, as her next opponent is Gisela Dulko, the conqueror of Maria Sharapova.

Vera Zvonareva, the No 7 seed disposed of Mathilde Johansson, 6-1, 6-3 and will now meet another Frenchwoman, Virginie Razzano, who made light work of Jill Craybas, 6-3, 6-0.