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Dementieva beats opponent and heat to reach semis

ELENA Dementieva made a scorching start as temperatures soared today, advancing to the Australian Open semifinals with a 6-2, 6-2 win over Carla Suarez Navarro.

The Olympic gold medalist wasted no time warming up as temperatures hit 40C, winning 16 of the first 18 points against the 20-year-old Spaniard.

She raced through the first five games in 22 minutes and, after eventually holding serve in a sixth game that went to deuce 11 times and lasted 17 minutes, finished off in 1 hour, 35 minutes.

Dementieva was having particular problems with her high service toss as she looked straight up into the midday sun, double-faulting four times in that long game. She finished with 10 double-faults.

Both players were soon draping towels packed with ice around their necks during changeovers and sought shade as long as possible behind the baselines between points.

Suarez Navarro, who had an upset second-round win over seven-time Grand Slam winner Venus Williams, finished equal with her best run at a major-- her quarterfinal on debut at the last French Open.

Fourth-seeded Dementieva had never gone past the fourth round in 10 previous trips to Australia. Now she's only one win from reaching a third Grand Slam final. The 27-year-old Russian lost the French and US Open finals in 2004.

She'll play the winner of today's later quarterfinal that features the only two major winners remaining in the draw.

Serena Williams, who has nine Grand Slam singles titles including one in Australia every alternate year since 2003, takes on 2004 US Open winner Svetlana Kuznetsova.

Already set is an all-Russian semifinal between Olympic silver medalist Dinara Safina and Vera Zvonareva, who ran off the last 11 games to rout 2007 Wimbledon finalist Marion Bartoli 6-3, 6-0.

No. 3 Safina overcome 11 double-faults and 36 unforced errors to end the surprising run of local hope Jelena Dokic 6-4, 4-6, 6-4 yesterday.

Rafael Nadal, who beat Roger Federer in the French Open and Wimbledon finals and then overtook him at No. 1, plays No. 6 Gilles Simon of France in the men's quarterfinals later today.

Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, who upset Nadal in the semis here last year before losing the final to defending champion Novak Djokovic, faces Spanish Davis Cup winner Fernando Verdasco.

Djokovic dropped out of the tournament yesterday when he retired ill from his quarterfinal against Andy Roddick while trailing two sets to one. Roddick will play Federer in a semifinal.


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