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Venus out; Nadal, Safina soar

VENUS Williams was eliminated from the French Open yesterday, losing in the third round of the claycourt major for the third straight year.

The third-seeded Williams, who reached the 2002 final at Roland Garros, lost to No. 29 Agnes Szavay of Hungary 0-6, 4-6.

The seven-time grand slam champion was playing for the third straight day. She lost the first set of her second-round match on Wednesday, but saved a match point before beating Lucie Safarova in three on Thursday. She was also stretched to three sets in the first round.

World No. 1 Rafael Nadal, however, stitched up a straightforward 6-1, 6-3, 6-1 victory over Lleyton Hewitt to remain on track for a record fifth consecutive Paris crown.

What had on paper looked like a interesting third-round match, with Hewitt one of the few players without a losing record against the Spaniard, quickly became a drab affair as the Australian former world No. 1 put up little resistance.

Nadal's pink shirt and yellow sweatbands were the match's main bright spots as former Wimbledon and US Open champion Hewitt seemed resigned to his fate from the outset, going out to an ace after one hour and 51 minutes.

Women's defending champion Ana Ivanovic and top seed Dinara Safina also had little trouble in their matches, both advancing to the fourth round by dominating their opponents.

Safina defeated Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova of Russia 6-2, 6-0, and Ivanovic beat Czech Iveta Benesova 6-0, 6-2.

China's Li Na also won. The 25th seed advanced to the fourth round with an easy 7-5, 6-1 defeat of Olga Govortsova, Belarus.

Ivanovic, who lost in the 2007 French Open final before winning last year, has lost only eight games since being taken to a tiebreaker in her opening match.

"(The) score doesn't indicate how hard I had to work for some points," said Ivanovic, a former No. 1. "She started playing much, much better in the second set, and started hitting the ball much heavier. I just played really good and stayed in the moment and did what I had to do out there."

The current No. 1 has lost only four games in three rounds. Safina, who is trying to win her first grand slam title after losing in the final at Roland Garros last year and in the Australian Open final this year, won her first match 6-0, 6-0. She lost only one game in each set in the second round.

Novak Djokovic of Serbia reached the third round in the men's event, quickly completing his suspended match by easily winning the final set and beating Sergiy Stakhovsky of Ukraine 6-3, 6-4, 6-1.

No. 29 Philipp Kohlschreiber of Germany also advanced to the third round, beating 2003 French Open champion Juan Carlos Ferrero 6-4, 2-6, 6-4, 6-7 (3), 6-3 in another match suspended by darkness on Thursday.

No. 8 Fernando Verdasco of Spain, No. 10 Nikolay Davydenko of Russia and No. 12 Fernando Gonzalez of Chile reached the fourth round.


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