Top seeds get planted in wild fourth round


By Keith Hawkins, ESPN.com Tennis Editor
The four highest seeds in the bottom half of the women's draw have been eliminated at the Australian Open. Advancing from that half are three teenagers and one party crasher, Serena Williams.

All four of Sunday's fourth-round winners advanced in straight sets and beat a higher-ranked opponent in the process.

Before looking forward, here's how the four highest seeds on the bottom of the draw were dismissed:

• No. 2 Amelie Mauresmo: Didn't face a seeded opponent, yet failed to reach the quarters.
• No. 3 Svetlana Kuznetsova: Didn't lose a set in the first three rounds; lost in straight sets to Shahar Peer.
• No. 5 Nadia Petrova: Only player who has won a set so far against Serena Williams.
• No. 7 Elena Dementieva: Only one of the top four seeds who can say she lost to a top-10 seed (No. 10 Nicole Vaidisova).

Then there's No. 11 Jelena Jankovic, who entered her fourth-round match 12-1 on the season before becoming Williams' latest victim.

Vaidisova is the youngest player remaining in the entire field (she turns 18 in April), but the highest remaining seed in her half of the draw. Vaidisova, who was born in Germany but calls the Czech Republic home, will face compatriot Lucie Safarova for the right to play either Williams or Peer in the semifinals.

Vaidisova's only other appearance in a Grand Slam quarterfinal came at last year's French Open, where she beat Serena's older sister Venus before losing to Kuznetsova in the semis. As for her opponent, Safarova was a combined 1-6 in Grand Slam matches in her career before this year.

Williams might be the only unseeded player left in the draw, but she's also only two years removed from winning this event. (That also happens to be the last time she won a WTA Tour title.)

Peer will be making her Grand Slam quarterfinal debut.


ESPN.com news services

With both Amelie Mauresmo and Svetlana Kuznetsova losing in the fourth round at the Australian Open, the WTA Tour has confirmed that top seed Maria Sharapova is assured of returning to the world No. 1 ranking on Jan. 29. This will be the Russian's third stint at the top of the rankings, and her first since October 2005.

Sharapova has spent a total of seven weeks in her career as the top-ranked player in the world. The 19-year-old will take over No. 1 from Belgium's Justine Henin-Hardenne. A semifinalist at the Australian Open in 2006, Henin-Hardenne withdrew before the start of the tournament for personal reasons.

Sharapova will play compatriot Vera Zvonareva in the fourth round. Their match will be live on ESPN, starting at 3:30 a.m. ET on Monday.