- The Washington Times - Friday, January 23, 2009

MELBOURNE, Australia – Ana Ivanovic’s hopes of a return trip to the Australian Open final fell apart in a barrage of mistakes Friday, losing to Alisa Kleybanova 7-5, 6-7 (5), 6-2.

With 19-year-old Kleybanova of Russia constantly aggressive, fifth-ranked Ivanovic lost her serve nine times and finished with 50 unforced errors to only 23 winners in the third-round match.

When it was over, Kleybanova dropped to both knees, pumped her fists and blew kisses to the crowd. Ivanovic appeared to be nearly in tears as she walked off court.

The Serb’s loss came on a day that the late match between second-ranked Roger Federer against former No. 1 Marat Safin – which the Swiss star won 6-3, 6-2, 7-6 (5) – was supposed to produce the biggest news.

Instead, ethnic violence erupted between nationalist fans after Serbia’s Novak Djokovic, the defending champion, defeated Bosnian-born American Amer Delic 6-2, 4-6, 6-3, 7-6 (4).

One of several thrown chairs hit a woman and left her briefly unconscious though not seriously injured. Police said about 30 Bosnian and Serbian youths were ejected from Melbourne Park. Two men were charged with riotous behavior and a third was fined on the spot.

Organizers announced before the tournament that they were instituting a no-tolerance policy for disruptions.

They wanted the focus on tennis – Andy Roddick’s 6-3, 6-4, 6-2 win over Fabrice Santoro, top-ranked Jelena Jankovic’s 6-4, 6-4 over veteran Japanese player Ai Sugiyama and No. 3 Dinara Safina advancing with a 6-2, 6-2 win over No. 25 Kaia Kanepi.

Instead of talking about how Djokovic reached the third round in a victory packed with drama and good sportsmanship – the 21-year-old Serb and Bosnian-born Delic were mostly quizzed about the chaotic scene that followed, when their supporters clashed outside near a big-screen TV showing the match.

“There’s absolutely no place for that here. This is a tennis match,” said Delic, who attended the University of Illinois and lives in Jacksonville, Fla. “As I’m sure you all saw at the end, Novak and I are friends. We’re both competitors. In the end it was a fair match, and there was no reason for such things.”

Before finally asking reporters to change the subject, Djokovic lamented that players can’t control their fans. Delic had earlier used his Web site to ask his backers, who were boisterous to the point of disruption in the qualifier’s first two matches, to tone it down.

Djokovic next plays 2006 runner-up Marcos Baghdatis of Cyprus, who beat No. 23 American Mardy Fish 6-2, 6-4, 6-4. Baghdatis is unseeded and ranked 97th after playing in only 12 tournaments last year because of wrist and back injuries.

And that wasn’t even all the day’s drama – a man was arrested after dancing across a court, naked from the waist down, as Serena and Venus Williams won a second-round doubles match.

Federer dominated the rematch of the 2005 semifinal, which Safin won en route to the championship. Federer looked sharp in his pursuit of a 14th Grand Slam title that would tie Pete Sampras’ record.

Federer never faced a breakpoint, and the mercurial Safin’s growing frustration nearly boiled over when he was called for a foot-fault on his second serve. That gave him a double-fault and Federer a 4-1 lead in the third-set tiebreaker. Safin rallied to lead 5-4 before Federer ran off the last three points, the last on a backhand winner down the line.

“He gave me quite a few free points in the first two sets, but after that he got tougher,” Federer said. “I’m pretty lucky I got through in three.”

Safin has said he is unlikely to keep playing after this year. Federer clearly would miss him.

“I always like to play Marat,” Federer said. “We go back, we like playing each other. It doesn’t matter who wins.”

After dropping the first set, 21-year-old Ivanovic lost her first two service games in the second, falling behind 0-3. She rallied to force a tiebreaker, where both women were pumping their fists after every point won. Ivanovic did a three-punch combination after whacking an overhead winner on set point.

The jubilation was short-lived: Ivanovic was facing 0-3 again in the deciding set and never caught up. Serving at 2-5, she fell behind 0-40. She saved one match point with a high, lunging volley winner before Kleybanova hit a forehand crosscourt that went untouched to end the match.

Kleybanova, who reached the fourth round at Wimbledon last year in her third Grand Slam, dropped to her knees in relief and disbelief.

“It was one of the most exciting matches of my life,” Kleybanova said. “I will never forget this night.”

Roddick had 22 aces against Santoro and next plays No. 21 Tommy Robredo of Spain, who beat Taiwanese player Yen-hsun Lu. No. 8 Juan Martin del Potro of Argentina extended his winning streak to seven matches, and No. 19 Marin Cilic of Croatia ousted No. 11 David Ferrer of Spain.

On the women’s side, Russians Vera Zvonareva, seeded seventh, and No. 10 Nadia Petrova are also in the fourth round.

Unseeded Jelena Dokic, a former Wimbledon semifinalist making her first appearance in the main draw of a Grand Slam after a three-year absence, knocked off a seeded player for the second straight round, ousting No. 11 Caroline Wozniacki of Denmark.

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