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Australian Open diary: Wednesday 19 January

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Originally published on: 19/01/11 09:00

What’s in a name?
There was a bit of a glam battle out on Margaret Court Arena, or ‘Margaret Court court’, as a youngster repeatedly quipped while studying a map during a break in the Verdasco-Tipsarevic match on Hisense Arena. “Is it really called that?” he added with a giggle. Ironic amusement aside, the arena named after the former tennis great (who was at Melbourne Park today, incidentally) hosted an easy-on-the-eye duel between Victoria Azarenka and Czech Andrea Hlavackova. Though the Czech world No.99 went down 6-4 6-4 to last year’s quarter-finalist, she told tennishead how she found the Margaret Court, er, court. “It was a great atmosphere. I loved the court (not Margaret, we assume, but the acrylic, blue surface). It’s very nice, the crowd was fantastic. I heard a lot of voices for me.”
 
The 24-year-old wasn’t simply content to have featured on Margaret Court court (sorry, I’ll stop now), later ruing her lack of consistency on serve, which she felt prevented her from taking the Belarusian to the wire. “I’m a bit disappointed because I was very good today,” said Hlavackova, a five-time ITF titlist.  “I was pleased with my baseline returns, but my serve didn’t find a way to get in. If I would be serving at least average I think I would have had big chance to win, which is disappointing when you play top 10 players.”
 
Women stroll on
There were straight sets wins for Caroline Wozniacki, 14th seed Maria Sharapova, last year’s finalist Justine Henin and Russia’s Svetlana Kuznetsova on day three. Wozniacki again took the prize for the most assured triumph. ”I definitely made her run,” she said, after trouncing American Vania King 6-1 6-0 in just 58 minutes. Henin took just three minutes longer, seeing off Britain’s Elena Baltacha 6-1 6-3. “I’ve been working hard, and I’m moving in the right direction,” said the 2004 Aussie Open champ.
 
Elsewhere, 32nd seed Tsvetana Pironkova was bumped out by the unseeded Monica Niculescu, but it took a 41-shot rally for the Romanian to set up a set point. She duly took it, before later serving out the match
 
Venus back in the nude
Venus Williams looked set for an early exit after yelping in pain with an apparent groin injury – to her ‘psoas muscle’, she said, to initial puzzlement in her post match presser – en route to losing the first set against Sandra Zahlavova. But despite the injury, the American made a remarkable recovery after taking a medical time out, hitting back for a 6-7 6-0 6-4 triumph. Curious, almost as curious as her latest dress.
 
“The outfit is inspired by Alice in Wonderland,” admitted Venus post-match. “This outfit is about having a surprise in a tennis dress and showing some skin. I love fantasy, so this was my way to express myself on the court.”
 
If you haven’t seen it, brace yourself – those flesh-coloured undies are back.
 
Nando back from the brink
In what was undoubtedly the match of the day, Fernando Verdasco was tested to the brink by Janko Tipsarevic – certainly not the kind of second round tie the Spaniard wanted as he tries to better his 2009 Grand Slam-best semi-final run in Melbourne. Trailing two sets to love down, the 27-year-old went on to save three match points in a 72-minute-long fourth set before racing through a tiebreak, without dropping a point, and the final set, without dropping a game.
 
“I was really close to losing today and I think my mentality was key,” said Verdasco, who also admitted that his fitness work with Andre Agassi’s former trainer Gil Reyes paid off in the energy-sapping battle.
 
“I felt that even when the match was longer and longer, I was feeling better and better,” Verdasco added, after avoiding a repeat of his 2008 second round exit to the Serb, when he lost in straight sets.

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