- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 17, 2008

MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) — Roger Federer was prepared to be entertained against Fabrice Santoro. The Swiss star even chimed in.

Santoro’s wily courtcraft, anticipation and phenomenal retrieving have carried him through a record 62 Grand Slam tournaments, but he was no match for Federer when they shared the stage at the Australian Open.

Often players get frustrated with chasing chips, drops and between-the-leg shots and are bamboozled when Santoro goes to his unusual double-handed slice forehand.

But against Federer, who can pick up half-volleys and turn them into winners like nobody else on tour, Santoro didn’t have a chance today (last night EST).

When Santoro did win a closely contested point when Federer miscued an overhead from an opportunistic defensive lob, he threw up his hands in victory and jogged around in circles as if he had just finished off the match.

But it was a rare mistake for Federer, who had 53 winners and 18 unforced errors and ran off the last 10 games of a 6-1, 6-2, 6-0 win to advance to the third round.

Federer set up match point with a leaping overhead, prompting a plea from Santoro for a bit of mercy as he nodded toward the scoreboard.

He got a laugh and a slight pause from Federer, who then held at love and strode over the net to congratulate Santoro for bettering Andre Agassi’s 61 majors by one.

“Obviously I always enjoy the match against Fabrice,” said Federer, chasing his third consecutive Australian Open title and his 13th major. “First time I played him, he totally dismantled me. Showed I had a lot of things to work on.

“Today I was in great shape, could play aggressive. We always have great rallies together because of his playing style. … He does a great job of making you doubt.”

Venus Williams’ radar was off against Camille Pin, but she did not want to risk going three sets against the Frenchwoman.

Down a break of serve in the second set, the eighth-ranked Williams rallied to get back to 4-4 and won the last two games for a 7-5, 6-4 victory.

Pin has never been beyond the second round in 19 majors, but Williams would have been aware of the 26-year-old Frenchwoman’s never-say-die approach if she tracked Maria Sharapova’s path to the final last year.

Pin rallied from 5-0 down in the third set and had a chance to serve for the match at 7-6 before eventually losing 9-7 in the first round last year against the then top-seeded Sharapova. Sharapova progressed to the final before losing to Venus’ sister, Serena Williams.

Venus Williams didn’t help herself with six double faults and 44 unforced errors as she tried to push Pin around the court.

She looked stiff and trudged back to the baseline talking to herself as her mistakes piled up. Her serve was broken four straight times in the first set. She was spraying groundstrokes, particularly her backhand.

Pin kept Williams from getting into a rhythm by mixing up her spins and drawing Williams in with drop shots, then sending her scampering back to the baseline with well-placed lobs.

“She’s was a real fighter … really feisty,” said Williams, who will face No. 31 Sania Mirza of India, a 6-1 4-6 7-5 winner over Timea Bacsinszky.

Second-ranked Svetlana Kuznetsova was desperate to win the first set for her own reasons against Bulgarian Tsvetana Pironkova. The former U.S. Open champion has never won a match at the Australian Open after losing the first set.

And she had her difficulties in a 7-6 (0), 6-2 win, having to come back from 3-0 and 5-2 down in the first set.

Other women’s seeded players advancing were No. 6 Anna Chakvetadze, No. 9 Daniela Hantuchova and No. 27 Maria Kirilenko, who beat Akiko Morigami of Japan 6-1, 6-1.

Joining Federer in the third round were No. 13 Tomas Berdych, who beat Oscar Hernandez 6-2, 6-1, 6-3, and former No. 1 Juan Carlos Ferrero.

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