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Venus falls but Serena, Nadal stay on course

STATUESQUE Venus Williams was sent crashing down to earth at the Australian Open yesterday, the seven-time grand slam champion's second-round defeat creating the first major shock of the 2009 tournament.

The sixth seed was felled by free-hitting Spanish newcomer Carla Suarez Navarro 6-2, 3-6, 5-7 under floodlights, hours after sister Serena had survived a tricky encounter to advance in Melbourne.

"She was super consistent and aggressive and just went for her shots," Venus acknowledged. "I think she just played really well.

"I don't believe in jinxes because I don't believe in witches or warlocks or magical creatures and stuff," she added when asked if she was frustrated at another early exit here after her first-round loss in 2006.

Serena's champion's mentality lifted her to the third round despite a distinctly lukewarm performance.

Facing Argentine Gisela Dulko, three-time champion Serena won the first set comfortably enough but had to overcome 0-3 and 2-5 deficits in the second to secure a 6-3, 7-5 victory in 110 minutes.

"I was able to get through it not playing my best...that's how I would sum it up," Serena said. "Lots and lots and lots and lots of room for improvement.

"It is always good to know that against me, at least these girls bring their 'A' game. Today I was at a 'D-minus' but it is good that I won." Serena meets China's Peng Shuai next.

Men's top seed Rafael Nadal was both clinical and combative in his 6-2, 6-3, 6-2 win over Croatia's Roko Karanusic, the Spanish top seed taking only 97 minutes to destroy his opponent.

"I won without any problems today, so that was good," the world No. 1 smiled.

Next for him is former world No. 2 Tommy Haas.

Last year's runner-up Jo-Wilfried Tsonga completed a great day for French tennis when he beat Ivan Ljubicic of Croatia 6-7 (4), 7-6 (8), 7-6 (7), 6-2.

Tsonga showed no signs of the back injury that forced him to pull out of a warm-up event in Sydney last week as he wore down his opponent.

It has been 81 years since a Frenchman won the Australian Open singles title but five Frenchmen are through to the third round this year. Fabrice Santoro, the oldest man in the tournament, progressed on Wednesday, while Gilles Simon, Richard Gasquet and Gael Monfils also won yesterday.

Fourth-ranked Andy Murray, wasn't seriously challenged in his first real test, ousting 51st-ranked Marcel Granollers of Spain 6-4, 6-2, 6-2 in 110 minutes.

Women's fourth seed Elena Dementieva extended her winning streak to 12 matches with a comfortable 6-4, 6-1 victory over Iveta Benesova of the Czech Republic.

Dementieva, who is unbeaten in 2009 after claiming the Auckland and Sydney titles, admitted after her first-round victory over Kristina Barrois that her run of matches had left her a little fatigued.

The world No. 4 made 23 unforced errors and served five double faults on the second show court but was still too strong for 35th-ranked Benesova, wrapping up the match in 72 minutes.

Amelie Mauresmo, who won here and at Wimbledon in 2006, rallied to beat Britain's Elena Baltacha, while fellow Frenchwoman Virginie Razzano ousted Swiss No. 14 Patty Schnyder 6-3, 6-1.

Other women advancing included No. 8 Svetlana Kuznetsova of Russia, No. 12 Flavia Pennetta of Italy, No. 13 Victoria Azarenka of Belarus and No. 22 Zheng Jie of China.


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