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banner Tuesday, 22 January, 2002, 13:38 GMT
Seles saves the day
Monica Seles was at full stretch to defeat Venus Williams
Seles saved an otherwise dull day in Melbourne
BBC Sport Online's Colin Banks gives his courtside view from day nine of the Australian Open, another day dominated by the weather.

Weather takes control again

You could almost be excused for thinking you were at Wimbledon with all the rain we've had to endure over the past few days.

A constant drizzle fell on Melbourne Park all day wiping out play on the outside courts until early evening. Better weather is predicted with temperatures rising back up into the upper 30's from Wednesday.

Monica saves the day

Monica Seles, playing some of the best tennis of her career, saved an otherwise dull day in Melbourne as she outlasted Venus Williams in a titanic struggle 6-7 6-2 6-3.

After straightforward victories earlier in the day for Martina Hingis and Thomas Johansson, the night crowd of 14,414 came alive for what became the match of the tournament in the women's event.

Venus Williams receives treatment from the trainer during her match against Monica Seles
Venus Williams was once again hampered by injury
The dramatic victory was an important milestone for Seles, who had not beaten Venus in six previous attempts, and especially sweet as she has been suffering from a virus and fever since earlier in the day.

"Physically I'm not exhausted, the only thing is I'm fighting a fever, so I was worried a little bit about that," she said afterwards.

"A lot of players have this virus, hopefully I'll just get through it and it won't sap all my energy.

"It's great when you have wins like today. It makes you want to go out there and work even harder."

Work harder, she will, as Martina Hingis will run-down as many of her fierce drives as possible in their semi-final on Thursday.

Seles has won their last two matches, but Hingis has been looking hungry all week, and with the Williams' sisters out of the way, she will be eyeing a fourth title.

The match also ended Venus' 24-match winning streak, which goes back to July last year. Seles now extends hers to 18, although she did suffer a defeat to Francesca Schiavone in the Hopman Cup exhibition event.

Venus tipped Seles to win the tournament after her loss.

"She had the game plan today," she said. "If she continues like that, she should take the Slam back home, and what an exciting story that would be."

Venus has been troubled by injuries all tournament, taking a lengthy eight-minute injury time-out at 4-4 in the first set, which Seles questioned for the length of the assessment period before the injury was even treated.

"I had a pain in my hamstring area," she confessed. "I've never had pain like that there before.

"I wasn't quite sure what was going on. My knee was a lot easier today though, as the swelling has gone down somewhat."

"Normally I would run for a lot of shots to give my opponents one more look at the ball, but after then I just couldn't do that today.

"She deserved to win. She went out there and took it to me. She was definitely the better player."

Humble comments indeed from the player who never normally admits defeat.

The Anna Roadshow keeps going

Anna Kournikova may have lost in the first round, but that hasn't dampened the enthusiasm of her fans who queued in the rain for a chance to see her third round doubles match with Martina Hingis.

Anna Kournikova in doubles action at the Australian Open
Anna Kournikova is still pulling in the crowds
With play suspended on the outside courts until early evening, the pair took on the experienced Dutch girls Miriam Oremans and Kristie Boogert under cover in the Vodafone Arena.

The Arena, which seats 10,000, was full to capacity, with an estimated 1,000 queuing outside in the rain. At the same time, Jonas Bjorkman and Thomas Johansson were playing their singles quarter-final in a half-empty Rod Laver Arena.

The 'Anna Army' helped inspire the pair to a tough 6-3 7-5 victory.

Cowbells ringing in their ears

Tournament organisers came in for criticism after security, at its most petty, confiscated two sets of cowbells from a Swiss fan during Roger Federer's loss to Tommy Haas on Monday.

The over-exuberant fan had been adding to the colourful atmosphere, rewarding every Federer winner with a chime of the bells. Security removed the first set of bells though mid-way through the match, before returning to remove a second set some time later.

It seems incredible that tournament organisers could resort to this, when they are continually looking at ways of improving the atmosphere during matches to help make them more like Davis Cup ties or a football match.

They were forced to issue an apology today though after it was found that there was no Grand Slam rule banning musical instruments from matches.

Mixed fortunes for British Juniors

When play finally did get under way on the outside courts at 6:30, Britain's top ranked junior Alex Bogdanovic obviously decided there was no point in wasting any time in case the rain returned.

Alex Bogdanovic was rarely bothered by his opponent
Bogdanovic triumphed in two sets
He utterly dominated David Savic of Yugoslavia, in every aspect of the game, particularly on serve, winning 6-3 6-1 in only 35 minutes.

"I'm really pleased to have won this one," he told BBC Sport Online after the match.

"I injured my wrist yesterday and had to play through pain during the whole match. He didn't have a good day, and I was only playing at 50 per cent, but I still managed to win pretty easily which is positive."

"I'll sit down with my coach tomorrow and take a decision about where to go from here."

Matthew Smith joined him in the second round after an impressive 7-5 6-2 victory over Emile Petit of France, but it was not good news for Britain's other representative in the boys' singles.

Tom Pocock's lack of a killer shot was the key in a comprehensive 6-2 6-2 defeat to Germany's Markus Bayer.

Williams sisters boycott Indian Wells

The Tier One event in Indian Wells last March was perhaps the lowpoint of the Williams family year. After both players had won through to play each other in a high profile semi-final, Venus withdrew five minutes before the start of the match with tendonitis in her knee.

After she refused to appear on court to tell the sell-out crowd that she could not play as is customary in these circumstances, the crowd turned against the Williams clan the following day in the final with Serena repeatedly booed in her victory over Kim Clijsters.

Indian Wells is officially the sixth biggest event of the year after the Grand Slams and Miami, so naturally attracts all but a few of the top players.

Both Williams sisters are notable absentees for this year's event announced on Tuesday, especially surprising since Serena is defending champion, and all defending champions are required to return and defend their title under WTA rules.

Venus refused to make any comment on the family decision not to play.

Wedding Date

Japan's Kimiko Date, the diminutive player who reached the semi-finals of Wimbledon in 1996 and reached a career high ranking of four, has announced her marriage to German motor racing driver, Michael Krumm.

Date retired from the WTA at the end of 1996 while still a prominent feature in the top 10 claiming that she had achieved all she ever wanted to in tennis, and no longer wanted to travel.

Links to more Australian Open stories are at the foot of the page.


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