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Russian Zvonareva into semifinals at Australian Open

VERA Zvonareva ran off 11 straight games in a 6-3, 6-0 win over Marion Bartoli at the Australian Open today to reach the semifinals for the first time in 25 majors.

The 24-year-old Russian's best performance in six previous trips to Melbourne was the fourth round -- she'd gone out in the first round at the Australian Open three times, including last year. And she made the quarterfinals at the 2003 French Open.

Seventh-seeded Zvonareva rallied from an opening service break to dominate 2007 Wimbledon finalist Bartoli in the remainder of their quarterfinal.

"I'm very excited about it," said Zvonareva, who cut her unforced errors from 15 in the first set to two in the second. "I think it was a great day for me."

She's had four 6-0 sets in 10 sets in her five straight-sets wins.

"I'm not really thinking about the scores or sets or any statistics," she said. "I'm just trying to concentrate on every match and trying my best. And I think I've been doing pretty good so far."

Bartoli of France, seeded 16th, had ousted top-ranked Jelena Jankovic in the fourth round.

"I think she played just unbelievably well," Bartoli said of the last 11 games. "She barely missed one ball after that. I was hitting as hard as I could. She was always coming back with some better shots."

In the following match on Rod Laver Arena, defending champion Novak Djokovic was up against No. 7 Andy Roddick in the first of the men's quarterfinals.

Roger Federer, seeking a record-equaling 14th Grand Slam singles title, was against No. 8 Juan Martin del Potro in a night match.

Andy Murray may have to wait awhile before he's picked again to win a Grand Slam tournament.

Touted by British bookmakers as a favorite at the Australian Open, Murray lost to No. 14 Fernando Verdasco of Spain in five sets yesterday in the fourth round.

He twice blew a one-set lead and missed chances to break serve in the pivotal sixth game of the deciding set. He then dropped serve in the subsequent game and was beaten 2-6, 6-1, 1-6, 6-3, 6-4.

Nadal had a far easier time, downing 2007 runner-up Fernando Gonzalez of Chile 6-3, 6-2, 6-4. He has yet to drop a set ahead of his quarterfinal against sixth-seeded Gilles Simon.

Verdasco will meet fifth-seeded Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, the runner-up here last year who defeated No. 9 James Blake 6-4, 6-4, 7-6 (3).

Of the top eight seeded players, Murray will be the only one missing from the quarterfinals at Melbourne Park.


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