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Venus into last eight in Dubai

SEVEN-TIME grand slam champion Venus Williams breezed into the quarterfinals of the Dubai Championships with a 6-3, 6-2 victory over Frenchwoman Alize Cornet yesterday.

Virginie Razzano of France followed up her win over second seed Dinara Safina by beating Slovak Daniela Hantuchova 6-2, 1-6, 6-2, while holder Elena Dementieva of Russia put out Spain's Anabel Medina Garrigues 6-1, 6-3.

Sixth seed Williams was always in control against Cornet and was especially dominant early in the second set, surrendering just two points in four games from 1-1.

"I missed a few shots long (today) and was a little upset about that but I managed to rein it in," the American said. "She is obviously a really good player with a lot of potential.

"I'm sure she didn't play the way she wanted but I think I was able to put some pressure on her."

Eighth-seeded Serb Ana Ivanovic put out Frenchwoman Camille Pin 6-2, 7-6.

"I started really well. I was very aggressive in the first set then in the second I started pulling back a little bit on my shots," said Ivanovic. "I got a bit frustrated and that causes more errors. But I'm very happy with the way I served at the end."

Fifth-seeded Russian Vera Zvonareva advanced after Frenchwoman Marion Bartoli retired with blisters on both feet when trailing 5-2 in the first set.

Russian qualifier Elena Vesnina went through 4-6, 6-1, 4-0 when 12th-seeded Slovak Dominika Cibulkova retired through illness.

Off the court, WTA chief Larry Scott denied that money was a factor in allowing the championships to carry on, which is at the centre of a storm. Top Israeli player Shahar Peer was denied a visa into the United Arab Emirates and had to forfeit her place. Although the UAE's stand has angered the tennis community, the WTA allowed the lucrative US$2 million event to be staged.

"That (money) does not factor into it. This is an issue related to principles, related to fairness to our athletes and being sensitive to what the affected player wants," Scott said.

"Practically speaking, our athletes were already there ready to play ... and we did not really have much time to react to the situation. Just because Shahar was penalized she did not want to see all her fellow players penalized."

The furore is unlikely to die down anytime soon as the men's Dubai tournament, which begins next Monday, has Israel's Andy Ram in the doubles draw.


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