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Both Williams sisters upset in Cincinnati

THE Williams sisters have seldom spent such a miserable day together as they made third-round exits at the Western & Southern Financial Group Open yesterday.

Venus Williams botched routine shots all the way through a 7-6 (2), 6-4 loss to Italy's Flavia Pennetta. Williams made 38 unforced errors, repeatedly dumping balls into the net or well beyond the baseline.

"I saw her after the match, and she just said she had made a lot of errors," younger sister Serena said. "I was like, 'Wow.' I didn't think I would do the same thing."

Not the same. Worse.

Playing on the same court a few hours later, Serena topped her sister in confounding mistakes. She had 44 unforced errors during a 7-5, 6-4 loss to Austria's Sybille Bammer, who reached the quarterfinals for only the third time this year.

"I never played worse in my life," Serena said. "It was really a bad match."

With the Williams sisters gone, the Open became a stage for Kim Clijsters' comeback. She returned from a two-year layoff to recharge and start a family, and won her first two matches rather easily. Clijsters persevered through a tough test on Thursday to reach the quarterfinals.

She showed focus and energy in a 6-4, 4-6, 6-2 win over French Open champion Svetlana Kuznetsova during the midday heat. The 26-year-old Clijsters swept all four points in the final game, then pumped her fist in celebration.

"My mindset was really good," she said. "I feel really good after this match. It's not that I feel tired or drained or anything, just a few little aches and pains from getting back into playing matches."

The former No. 1 had to find another way to win points when her serve deserted her early in the match. She made only 39 percent of her first serves in the opening set, but managed to win anyway.

"There are patches where my level is really good, then I have a few dips," she said.

She'll play current No. 1 Dinara Safina in the quarterfinals on Friday. Safina beat Peng Shuai of China 6-3, 6-4, setting up a quarterfinal that doesn't surprise her.

"You cannot lose your talent," Safina said, referring to Clijsters. "You cannot lose anything. It is there. If you are a great player, it doesn't matter."

Daniela Hantuchova of Slovakia reached the quarterfinals with a 7-6 (6), 0-6, 7-6 (5) victory over seventh-seeded Vera Zvonareva of Russia, and will meet Pennetta. No. 8-seeded Caroline Wozniacki of Denmark advanced when Hungary's Melinda Czink retired because of a back injury in the first set. Wozniacki will play No. 4 Elena Dementieva on Friday.

Former No. 1 Jelena Jankovic, after topping Victoria Azarenka of Belarus 7-5, 7-6 (4), will play Bammer.

It's the first time since May at Madrid that neither of the Williams sisters will be in a quarterfinals of the same tournament. Serena lost in the first round of that tournament, Venus in the second round.

"I wasn't able to get control of my ball today," third-seeded Venus said. "After a while, it was obvious to see she was just keeping the ball in play and waiting for me to self-destruct."

When Williams' forehand sailed long to end the match, Pennetta raised both arms in celebration, then put her left hand on her forehead as she approached the net.

"I'm shaking," she said, shortly after shaking Williams' hand.

The 27-year-old Italian doesn't usually get so emotional after a match.

"Very unusual," said Pennetta, who won the LA Women's Championships on Sunday. "I don't know. The emotion was crazy. Coming from Los Angeles, I didn't have a lot of days to rest. I was playing like that - yesterday, not my best tennis. I was tired. When everything comes together, the emotions go up."

Second-seeded Serena struggled against a player who was uncomfortable in her first match on the center court. Bammer is ranked No. 29 in the world and beat Serena in their only head-to-head match in 2007, a three-set victory. This was much different.

"I was nervous today, so I don't know how I really played," Bammer said. "I just tried to come into the rallies and make her play, and this worked."

The longer Serena played, the worse she got.

"I just hope I don't have another day like this for another several years," she said.


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