CINCINNATI: Serena Williams took another step in her comeback from a chronic left knee injury, beating Bethanie Mattek 6-3, 6-1 to enter the quarterfinals of the Cincinnati Open here on Thursday.
Serena, playing in her first tournament since the Australian Open in January, will now face Amy Frazier.
In doubles, Sania Mirza and Marta Domachowska of Poland moved into the semifinals with a hard-fought 6-4, 5-7, 7-6(3) win over the Chinese-Uzbek combination of Meng Yuan and Varvara Lepchenko.
Sania and Domachowska were given a tough fight as their opponents came back strongly after losing the first set. Meng and Lepchenko broke the Indo-Polish pair twice to take the second 7-5.
The decider was a tight affair and went into a tie-breaker, before Sania and Marta won 7-3.
`One match at a time'
``I'm just taking it one match at a time,'' Serena said after her win. ``I didn't expect super-spectacular results, but I didn't expect bad results either. I'm not looking too far ahead one match, one match, one match.''
The seven-time Grand Slam singles champion lost the first game of the second set to the 105th-ranked Mattek before taking the next six. Serena won the last 10 points of the match, breaking Mattek at love in the final game.
``She just started hitting winners,'' Mattek said. ``She turned it up a little bit. I started missing shots a little bit and having a little trouble getting my serve in, and she took advantage of it.''
Serena said she didn't play as well as she had in her first round win over the second-seeded Anastasia Myskina and felt she was improving. ``I feel fine,'' she said. ``I'm doing a lot of work off the court and I hope it pays off, because I hate it. I feel like I can be faster not just faster, but quicker.''
Jankovic in last eight
Fifth-seeded Jelena Jankovic outlasted Maria Elena Camerin of Italy 6-4, 6-4 in a second round match which had 12 breaks of serve. The second set was interrupted by rain for almost 30 minutes.
``My legs started hurting a little bit,'' Jankovic said. ``I was glad I was able to finish it in two sets. At the end, I was saying to myself, `I don't need any unforced errors.' I didn't want to play three sets. I was starting to get tired.''
She meets former top-10 player Vera Zvonareva of Russia in the quarterfinals after the latter overwhelmed Varvara Lepchenko of Uzbekistan 6-0, 6-2 with six breaks. It will be Zvonareva's first quarterfinals since she won her fourth career title in the Wimbledon warm-up at Birmingham last month.
The sixth-seeded Marion Bartoli of France beat qualifier Vasilisa Bardina of Russia 6-2, 2-6, 6-3 to earn a meeting with fourth-seeded Katarina Srebotnik.
At Indianapolis, top seed James Blake and two-time winner Andy Roddick were both put to stern tests before earning victories and places in the RCA Championships quarterfinals.
Blake, who had never been past the first round at the event in three previous appearances, ended the run of Wesley Whitehouse with a 6-7(5), 6-3, 6-4 victory. Second seed Roddick laboured to a 7-6(4), 7-5 victory over hard-hitting fellow American Jeff Morrison.
``I felt I played well all night,'' Roddick said. ``But on every window of opportunity I had, he came up with a huge serve or a great volley. I played some of my best stuff this year, but I barely got the win. I was fortunate.''
The 2003 and 2004 champion was out-aced 12-9 by Morrison, who played well above his 183rd ranking.
World No. 6 Blake was broken after a double-fault while serving for the match at 5-2 in the final set, but the American steadied himself to win. He had 19 aces and four breaks of serve.
``I had to weather the storm,'' Blake said. ``I had a hiccup at 5-2. I may have eased off the throttle a bit. When you're serving for the match, things are a little different in your head. I just didn't execute it as well as I liked.''
Gonzalez, Malisse win
Third-seeded Fernando Gonzalez of Chile overcame American Vince Spadea 6-4, 7-6(7), while Belgian ninth seed Xavier Malisse outduelled Russian Dmitry Tursunov, the No. 7, 7-6(4), 3-6, 6-3.
The eighth-seeded 2003 finalist Paradorn Srichaphan got out of a 2-4 deficit in the third set against Paul Goldstein, overcoming the American 5-7, 6-3, 7-6(3) as he saved three match points.
``I thought the match was lost,'' Srichaphan said. ``But he seemed to tighten up as he served for 5-2. We both played well on returns.''
The Thai, who has suffered a dozen first-round defeats this season, faces Ginepri.
The results: At Cincinnati (WTA Cincinnati Open): Second round: Vera Zvonareva bt Varvara Lepchenko 6-0, 6-2; Jelena Jankovic bt Maria Elena Camerin 6-4, 6-4; Marion Bartoli bt Vasilisa Bardina 6-2, 2-6, 6-3; Serena Williams bt Bethanie Mattek 6-3, 6-1.
At Indianapolis (ATP RCA Championships): Third round: Fernando Gonzalez bt Vince Spadea 6-4, 7-6(7); Robby Ginepri bt Igor Kunitsyn 6-2, 6-7(2), 6-1; Xavier Malisse bt Dmitry Tursunov 7-6(4), 3-6, 6-3; Paradorn Srichaphan bt Paul Goldstein 5-7, 6-3, 7-6(3); Nicolas Mahut bt Tommy Haas 6-4, 7-5; James Blake bt Wesley Whitehouse 6-7(5), 6-3, 6-4; Gilles Muller bt Kenneth Carlsen 6-1, 6-2; Andy Roddick bt Jeff Morrison 7-6(4), 7-5.
At Stuttgart (ATP Mercedes Cup): Quarterfinals: Juan Monaco bt Luis Horna 5-2 ret.; Tomas Berdych bt Nicolas Lapentti 6-1, 6-2. At Amersfoot (ATP Priority Telecom Open): Quarterfinals: Ruben Ramirez Hidalgo bt Alberto Martin 6-2, 6-2; Nicolas Massu bt Carlos Moya 7-5, 6-4.
At Palermo (WTA Palermo International): Second round: Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez bt Lourdes Dominguez Lino 6-7(0), 6-1, 6-2; Lucie Safarova bt Eleni Daniilidou 7-5, 4-6, 7-5; Anabel Medina Garrigues bt Anastasiya Yakimova 6-1, 2-6, 6-0; Karin Knapp bt Iveta Benesova 6-4, 6-4. Agencies