Williamses advance and Federer exorcises ghosts

Times Staff Writer

BEIJING -- The grudge match went as expected and the dream finals, Wimbledon revisited, stayed alive in men’s and women’s singles here Wednesday, on day three of the Olympic tennis tournament.

Also, at the end of the day, seven U.S. players were still in the medal hunt, including Venus and Serena Williams, Wimbledon finalists and star attractions here. They are also alive in doubles.

Venus got through to her singles quarterfinal with ease, beating Victoria Azarenka of Belarus, 6-3, 6-2. Serena, playing later on Center Court, on a day and evening with humidity ratings topping 90%, got past a scrappy Frenchwoman, 18-year-old Alize Cornet of France, 3-6, 6-3, 6-4.

“When I lost the first set,” Serena said, “I just focused on a third set, on getting there.”


The Williams sisters, whose singles seedings placed them in opposite sides of the bracket, can win a second doubles gold medal to go with the one they won in Sydney in 2000. Venus also won in singles that year.

“To win here in singles or doubles is the same,” Venus said, “because it is a gold medal competition.”

Roger Federer’s ugly memory of his 2004 tournament in Athens was soothed somewhat when he took out the player who had taken him out there, Tomas Berdych.

Berdych, a tall, blue-eyed player from the Czech Republic, who was only 18 in Athens and unheralded when he stunned Federer and the tennis world with his 4-6, 7-5, 7-5 upset, has now won more than $4 million on the tour and has risen as high as No. 9 in the world.


But while his Olympic win remains his biggest, it also has remained a scourge. Federer has played him six times since, including here Wednesday night, and Berdych has won just one more set.

“We’ve played a lot since then,” Federer said, “but it was nice to get him back here.”

Berdych dropped the first set, 6-3, then forced a tiebreaker in the second, which he lost, 7-4, when Federer closed it out with a passing shot, an ace and a high-kicking second serve Berdych couldn’t handle on match point.

Berdych said he thinks Federer, who has struggled of late and will lose his No. 1 ranking to Rafael Nadal next week, has just had too much pressure.


“He can’t win all the time. It is not humanly possible,” Berdych said. “I think now, the pressure is off, so watch out.”

Federer made his way into a quarterfinals against U.S. star James Blake, the eighth-seeded player, who has never beaten him. “The results are always the same,” Blake said, “but every match, I go in thinking I can win, and knowing that he is human.”

Blake’s 6-4, 6-2 advance was against Gilles Simon of France, who has been on a hot streak of late and who beat Federer recently.

Nadal, who beat Federer in their memorable Wimbledon final last month and is seeded to meet him again in the final here, got through quickly against Igor Andreev of Russia, 6-4, 6-2.


“I am very happy,” Nadal said, “because I am playing close to my best level.”

Both the Bryan brothers, top-seeded Bob and Mike, and Lindsay Davenport and Leizel Huber advanced to doubles quarterfinals.