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Venus, Hewitt advance easily

FIVE-TIME champion Venus Williams wore a strap on her left knee yesterday but still advanced to the third round by beating Kateryna Bondarenko 6-3, 6-2.

Tournament favorite Williams has been hampered by knee trouble in the past, but there was no indication of a problem this week until she walked onto sunny Court 1 bandaged from mid-calf to mid-thigh.

Williams let out a yelp when she appeared to pull up on a backhand in the third game, perhaps because of the knee. Otherwise she moved across the grass freely, charging forward to pounce on short balls. She won 17 points at the net to two for Bondarenko.

Williams was coy about the reason for the tape. "Just for support," she said twice in response to questions.

Pressed about what was wrong with her knee, she said: "What happened was that I needed some support, and then I went and got the support, and then I wore it in the match. I'll be wearing it in doubles, too. So it's working out. I mean, I think all the players might start wearing it because it's so supportive."

China's Li Na defeated Olga Govortsova of Belarus 6-4, 6-2 to advance. But there was no such luck for another Chinese Peng Shuai who fell to Poland's Agnieszka Radwanska 6-2, 6-7 (6), 9-7.

In men's play, 2002 champion Lleyton Hewitt upset No. 5-seeded Juan Martin del Potro 6-3, 7-5, 7-5. Hewitt broke an 11-match losing streak against top-five players.

"I love playing in England," the Australian said. "It feels like a second home, really."

Joining Williams in the women's third round was French Open champion Svetlana Kuznetsova, who beat Pauline Parmentier 6-1, 6-3 in 59 minutes. The Roland Garros runner-up, top-ranked Dinara Safina, never faced a break point and beat Rossana de Los Rios 6-3, 7-5.

Last year's French Open winner, No. 13-seeded Ana Ivanovic, beat Sara Errani 7-5, 6-1. No. 18-seeded Samantha Stosur, a Roland Garros semifinalist this month, swept the last five games to beat qualifier Tatjana Malek 4-6, 7-6 (6), 6-4.

Court assignments

Kuznetsova found the court assignments strange - she was on Court 3, while Safina and former No. 1-ranked players Ivanovic, Jelena Jankovic and Amelie Mauresmo were also on smaller courts.

"I'm fine to put me wherever they want to me put," Kuznetsova said in slightly broken English. "They don't have to put me Centre Court. But with the schedule, this is little bit weird thing. ... But, you know, in Wimbledon you have to expect anything."

The No. 3-seeded Williams lost only six points on her serve, two on double-faults. She slammed three aces in her first service game and finished with six.

She was just as ferocious with her returns. When one serve came at Williams slower than a lorry on the motorway, she eagerly stepped into the court, took a lusty swing and hit a winner.

That took her to set point in the first set, and she whacked another big return on the next point to win the set. There was no letup from there, and she swept the final four games. "Everything was working for me today," she said.

The win was her 16th in a row at Wimbledon.


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