Australian Open

Hingis: Wozniacki too passive against big hitters

January 25, 2012 05:41 AM
Caroline Wozniacki during her quarterfinal loss against Kim Clijsters.

MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) -- Five-time Grand Slam winner Martina Hingis has some advice for Caroline Wozniacki on how to handle the game's power hitters: Don't let them push you around.

Wozniacki, who mostly plays a defensive-minded game, fell to defending champion Kim Clijsters in the quarterfinals of the Australian Open, ensuring she'll drop from the top spot in the rankings on Monday.

The 21-year-old Dane has a losing record against many of the game's biggest hitters - she's 0-3 against Clijsters, 0-3 against Serena Williams, 0-4 against Venus Williams and 2-3 against Maria Sharapova.

"I didn't step back. I tried not to let them push me,'' Hingis said of playing power players like the Williams sisters and Lindsay Davenport. "They were stronger than me. It's hard to play three, four players like that in a row. It's three-setter after three-setter after three-setter.

"Today you just can't let yourself get pushed back. (Wozniacki) has to try to move in, step forward, otherwise there is always going to be somebody coming on top of her at a Grand Slam. She's a great player. I wish I would see her come in a little bit more.''

Hingis, a three-time champion at the Australian Open, is playing in the legends' doubles event this week with partner Iva Majoli. It's her first time back at Melbourne Park since losing to Clijsters in the 2007 quarterfinals. She retired for a second time at the end of that season.

Earlier this week, a fan gave her some news clippings from 1997 when a 16-year-old Hingis won three of her major titles.

"Baby face when I look at the photos,'' she said. "I'm like, 'Oh, I was able to make great things, making these victories.' It was amazing.''

KEI KO'd: Kei Nishikori's dream run at the Australian Open was brought to an end on Wednesday by No. 4 Andy Murray.

Murray, a two-time runner-up at Melbourne Park, denied Nishikori the first Grand Slam semifinal berth by a Japanese man since the Open Era began in 1968, breaking him seven times in a routine 6-3, 6-3, 6-1 victory.

"Of course I wanted to win today. I was really excited before the match and even yesterday to think about this match,'' Nishikori said. "I hope I could go farther. But that will be in few years or something hopefully.''

The 22-year-old Nishikori had already become the first Japanese man to reach the quarterfinal of a major since Shuzo Matsuoka did it at Wimbledon in 1995.

With his performance in Melbourne, Nishikori also is projected to rise to No. 20 in the rankings next week - a career high.

After he became the highest-ranked Japanese man in the Open Era last year by passing Matsuoka's best ranking of 46th, Nishikori said his goal for 2012 was to crack the top 20. He's accomplished that just weeks into the year.

"That's exciting news for me because ... first goal was to get top 20. I can't believe it's already done,'' he said. "Yeah, now try to get top 15.''

Nishikori has attracted a loyal following of Japanese fans in Melbourne, some of whom were dressed in kimonos and had Japanese flags painted on their faces for Wednesday's match at Rod Laver Arena. One Japanese broadcaster even made sushi rolls with labels reading "Go!! Nishikori'' to give to people before the match.

Nishikori said that although his conditioning has improved, he may have run out of steam after playing two five-set matches and a four-setter, spending nearly 12 hours on court before the Murray match.

"I was happy that I wasn't too tired to get here. If it's last year, you know, I be dead for sure.''

SILENCING CRITICS: Maria Sharapova is not going to turn down the volume for just anyone.

No. 8-ranked Agnieszka Radwanska of Poland criticized Sharapova for the shrieks she makes when she strikes the ball, describing them as "annoying'' and "just too loud.'' Radwanska had just lost a quarterfinal to Victoria Azarenka when she made the remarks.

Sharapova was not amused.

When told about Radwanska's comments after her quarterfinal win over Ekaterina Makarova on Wednesday, the fourth-seeded Russian asked rather icily, "Isn't she back in Poland already?''

She then said she's not about to make any changes to her playing style.

"I've been the same over the course of my career,'' she said. "No one important enough has told me to change or do something different. I've answered it many times before. I'm sure I'll answer it many more times ahead. I'm OK with that.''

The WTA said this week that it is looking at ways to deter players from incorporating grunts or screeches into their hitting motion, noting that "some fans find it bothersome.''

Sharapova is hardly alone in this department, however. Fellow semifinalist Azarenka has been mimicked by the crowds in Melbourne for the hooting noise she makes when she hits the ball.

And Monica Seles took so much heat for grunting at Wimbledon in 1992 that she toned it down for the final against Steffi Graf - and promptly lost.

 

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