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Dementieva packs off Serena

TOP-SEEDED Serena Williams was knocked out of the Sydney International amid a flurry of errors against Olympic gold medalist Elena Dementieva yesterday, losing 3-6, 1-6.

No. 2-ranked Williams, who was forced to save three match points in her three-set quarterfinal win over Caroline Wozniacki of Denmark late on Wednesday, will now head to Melbourne for next week's Australian Open.

"I gave it away more than anything," Williams said. "I made a lot of errors and made her look like a champ, really. I just pretty much gave her the match."

The nine-time grand slam singles winner however remained optimistic about her chances at the season's first major, saying she is feeling fit.

"It was good to have a few matches under my belt getting ready for Melbourne. I feel like I'm going to play a lot better than what I did this week," she said.

Dementieva will take on fellow Russian and No. 3-ranked Dinara Safina for the title in a reprise of the Beijing Olympics final. Second-seeded Safina beat Japan's Ai Sugiyama 6-4, 7-6 (3).

"I realize how tough it's going to be to play against Dinara tomorrow," Dementieva said. "She's in great shape right now. But it's going to be a great experience anyway. This is what we're all here for. We just want to get the best preparation as possible and play our best in the grand slam."

In men's quarterfinals, top-seeded Novak Djokovic advanced with a 6-3, 6-4 win over Croatia's Mario Ancic in a match that was suspended twice by rain. Despite previous crowd problems in Melbourne and Sydney involving Serbian and Croatian fans, there were few problems during the match, although there was extra security and police on hand.

Djokovic's semifinal opponent will be fourth-seeded David Nalbandian of Argentina, who beat former No.1 Lleyton Hewitt 7-6 (3), 7-5.

Richard Gasquet won through to the semifinals by defeating French compatriot Jeremy Chardy 6-2, 7-6 (4) and will face Finland's Jarkko Nieminen.

Nieminen progressed when his quarterfinal opponent, third-seeded Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, was forced to forfeit due to a back injury.

"I decided this afternoon that my back was too much and I cannot play," Tsonga said. "I will stay in my bed and I hope I will be better after."

In Auckland, New Zealand, top-seeded Juan Martin Del Potro of Argentina and sixth-seeded Sam Querrey of the United States advanced to the semifinals of the Heineken Open with straight-set victories.

Del Potro cruised to a 6-3, 6-2 win over Viktor Troicki of Serbia and Querrey beat fourth-seeded Nicolas Almagro of Spain 6-2, 6-3.

Querrey will face another Spanish player, second-seeded David Ferrer, in today's semifinals. Ferrer advanced on a walkover when defending champion Philipp Kohlschreiber withdrew because of a shoulder injury.

In Australia, Iveta Benesova remained on course for her first WTA title in five years by reaching the final of the Hobart International with a 6-1, 6-3 win over Slovakian Magdelena Rybarikova.

Benesova will play fellow Czech Petra Kvitova, who beat Virginie Razzano of France 6-4, 6-2 in a night semifinal.


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