Hingis avenges loss to Hantuchova

HAMBURG, Germany, Reuters and AP

Martina Hingis avenged her recent defeat by Daniela Hantuchova in the final of the Indian Wells tournament by beating the sixth seeded Slovak 7-5, 6-4 to reach the semifinals of the WTA event in Hamburg on Friday.

It was Hantuchova, though, who dictated much of the play, often beating Hingis with a well-struck forehand.

She forced a number of errors with her deep groundstrokes, or by stretching Hingis wide, but she also overhit the ball often enough to keep the Swiss number three seed in contention.

Although Hingis snatched an early break to lead 2-1, Hantuchova levelled at 3-3 and then earned a set point at 5-4 with a fierce winner down the line.

But Hingis escaped when the Slovak netted a backhand on the next point, and then broke to lead 6-5 when Hantuchova sent a forehand over the baseline.

After serving the set out to love, Hingis took a 2-1 lead in the second, converting her fifth break point with a fine backhand winner.

She then had the opportunity to close the match out when she held six break points for a 4-1 lead, but Hantuchova held off the challenge and then broke to love to level the set at 4-4.

But Hingis, bidding to regain the title she won two years ago, responded by forcing a backhand error to break again for 5-4, and then safely served out for victory. Guga digs deep to overcome Norman Top seed Gustavo Kuerten beat Magnus Norman 6-1, 5-7, 6-3 on Thursday to advance to the quarterfinals of the US$381,000 Mallorca Open ATP clay-court tournament.

In his next match, the Brazilian will face Argentine Gaston Gaudio, who crushed France’s Cedric Pioline 6-1, 6-3.

In a rematch of the French Open final from 2000, Kuerten showed he has overcome the hip surgery he underwent early this year.

Kuerten said he felt fine on the court, although he has room to improve as he returns to top-flight tennis after months of convalescence. “But the main thing is to prove to myself that I am capable of playing at the same level two or three tournaments in a row,” he said.

Spain’s Galo Blanco fell to Finland’s fourth-seeded Jarkko Nieminen 0-6, 3-6. Nieminen will next take on Slovak Dominik Hrbaty, who on Thursday downed Belgium’s Christophe Rochus 6-4, 6-4.

In the other two quarterfinal matches Spain’s David Sanchez will face Mariano Zabaleta of Argentina and Olivier Rochus of Belgium will play Agustin Calleri of Argentina. Novak ousted at BMW Open Julien Boutter of France upset defending champion Jiri Novak of the Czech Republic 6-2, 7-5 to reach the quarterfinals of the US$381,000 BMW Open on Thursday.

Novak was seeded fourth and was the second highest-seeded player left in the clay-court tournament. He had won both previous matches against Boutter.

Tommy Haas of Germany, seeded second and the top player left in the field, needed two hours and 30 minutes to outlast Andrei Pavel of Romania 5-7, 7-6 (2), 6-2.

Haas reached his second quarterfinal on clay this year, after also being in the last eight two weeks ago in Monte Carlo Masters. The German broke Pavel’s serve for a decisive 2-1 lead in the third set. Pavel had won the last two of their previous four matches.

Sixth-seeded Younes El Aynaoui of Morocco edged Bohdan Ulihrach of the Czech Republic 6-4, 4 6, 6-4 and reached his sixth quarterfinal of the year. He next plays Boutter.

Haas will play Mikhail Youzhni of Russia, who edged Oliver Gross of Germany 7-6 (4), 7-6 (2).

In other quarterfinals, qualifier Radek Stepanek of the Czech Republic faces seventh-seeded Nicolas Lapentti of Ecuador and Rainer Schuettler of Germany battles Francisco Clavet of Spain. Kournikova crumbles Anna Kournikova, still seeking her first WTA tournament title, was ousted in the second round of the Croatian Open on Thursday by seventh-seeded Tina Pisnik of Slovenia, 6-7 (1), 6-3, 6-3.

Pisnik, who won the Bol tournament two years ago, struggled early against Kournikova. The Russian, who slipped from No. 8 in the world to 68 following a foot injury that kept her out of the Tour for much of last year, forced the first set to a tiebreaker which she won before dropping the next two and the match.

Kournikova, who had numerous fans in the stands, was greeted with a huge applause.

Talking to reporters, she admitted disappointment, but said: “I still feel I made a step forward.”

Before Bol, Kournikova was losing five consecutive times in opening matches.

Referring to that, Kournikova said she obviously made a “good decision” to come and play in smaller tournaments — Bol, and later Warsaw — skipping Berlin and Hamburg tournaments gathering players such as Venus Williams.

“My wish, of course, is to get back to top 20, actually to where I’ve been before the injury,” she said.

Second-seeded Anne Kremer of Luxembourg also tumbled out of the dlrs 170,000 tournament, losing 6 2, 7-5 by Mariana Diaz Oliva of Spain, as well as Magdalena Maleeva of Bulgaria, who was defeated by Aasa Svensson of Sweden, 7-5, 6-3.

Maleeva led 4-1 in the first set, but Svensson pushed to 4-4 and then completely took over the match.

Fourth-seeded Iva Majoli — the winner of last week’s Charleston tournament — also advanced to the quarterfinals, defeating fellow Croatian Jelena Kostanic, 2-6, 6-4, 7 6 (4).

Kostanic, who beat Majoli in Bol three years ago, took initiative and won the first set comfortably. But the 24-year-old Majoli then began playing more aggressively, forcing Kostanic’s backhand — her weaker side.

“It was really tough,” said Majoli, who will face qualifier Vera Zvonareva of Russia in the quarterfinals.

Another qualifier, Libuse Prusova of the Czech Republic, defeated Spaniard Maria Sanchez Lorenzo, 6-4, 6-3.