Sat, Jul 31, 2004 - Page 19 News List

Russians dominate Acura quarterfinals

PROFESSIONAL TENNIS Sixth seed Maria Sharapova, French Open champion Anastasia Myskina and No. 12 Vera Zvonareva, all Russian, advanced to the next level

AP , CARLSBAD, CALIFORNIAAP, TORONTO

Maria Sharapova of Russia prepares to serve to Gisela Dulko of Argentina during their match at the Acura Classic in Carlsbad, California, Thursday.

PHOTO: REUTERS

Wimbledon champion Maria Sharapova led four Russians into the Acura Classic quarterfinals Thursday with a 6-0, 6-1 victory over Gisela Dulko.

Sharapova, the sixth seed, needed all of 44 minutes to win her third-round match in the first tournament she's played since surprising Serena Williams in the Wimbledon final earlier this month.

Her countrywomen were nearly as quick. French Open champion Anastasia Myskina defeated Chanda Rubin 6-1, 6-2 in 61 minutes; No. 5 Elena Dementieva got by Russian Elena Likhovtseva 6-2, 7-6 (2) in 75 minutes; and No. 12 Vera Zvonareva beat seventh-seeded Russian Svetlana Kuznetsova 6-2, 6-3 in 60 minutes.

No. 4 Lindsay Davenport, winner of titles at Stanford and Carson in the last two weeks, routed Conchita Martinez 6-1, 6-2 in 47 minutes.

Williams, the top seed who hasn't won a title since March, defeated another Russian, Elena Bovina, 6-4, 6-2 in 68 minutes.

Trailing 3-2 in the first set, Bovina had triple break point against Williams, but Williams came up with two winners and Bovina sent a forehand long on a second serve as Williams held. Bovina double-faulted to drop her serve and trail 5-2.

Bovina won the next two games to get to 5-4, but Williams closed out the set with a 110 mph serve that the Russian barely got her racket on. In the second set, Bovina fought off triple break point to hold for a 2-1 lead, but Williams ran off the final five games, including two service breaks, and won on her third match point when Bovina's backhand went wide.

"It boiled down to who could hold serve, but my serve carried me throughout the match," Williams said. "This is the best I've played in the last few weeks. Baby steps, but I'll get there."

Sharapova will play the third-seeded Myskina in Friday's quarterfinals at La Costa Resort and Spa.

"It's going to be very tough for me. Now she's playing much better," Myskina said of Sharapova. "I want to prove that French is not only one tournament I was playing good."

Myskina, the top-ranked player in Russia, is 2-0 against Sharapova this year. She beat her in three sets at the Australian Open and in straight sets at Indian Wells in March -- both on hardcourts.

"I haven't beaten her yet and I like these kind of challenges," Sharapova said. "She's very consistent, she moves very well and she gets everything back. You have to stay patient. Indian Wells was a terrible day for me. I've become such a more experienced player."

Myskina and Sharapova won their first Grand Slam titles this year. But they couldn't be more different. Myskina is in her eighth year on the WTA Tour, and frequently mentions being homesick for Russia.

Sharapova came to the US when she was 7 to pursue her tennis, and is the most Americanized of all the talented Russians who have become a major force in women's tennis.

"I think she's more comfortable here," Myskina said. "Her mentality is more American, but she still speaks good Russian. She's still a nice girl. She handles pressure very good."

But Sharapova sharply rejected a suggestion that she feels American, even though she spends only a few weeks a year in her native country.

"We've had totally different ways of growing up and developing our careers," she said. "Even though I've trained in America, my blood is Russian and no one is going to tell me where I'm from."

Sharapova raced through the first set in 18 minutes against the overmatched Dulko, who was to play Venus Williams in the first round. But Williams withdrew because of a right wrist injury before their match, and Dulko beat Tamarine Tanasugarn and Mary Pierce to reach the third round.

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