Zvonareva, Clijsters win; Stosur eliminated in Melbourne

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, Last Updated: 9:57 AM ET

Vera Zvonareva and Kim Clijsters were third-round winners Saturday at the 2011 Australian Open, but crowd favorite Samantha Stosur was handed an early exit.

The second-seeded Zvonareva advanced with a 6-3, 7-6 (11-9) victory over Lucie Safarova of the Czech Republic, while the third-seeded Clijsters had her toughest match of the week with a 7-6 (7-3), 6-3 triumph against Frenchwoman Alize Cornet.

Stosur was the last Australian woman in the draw, but the fifth seed began the night session at Laver Arena with a straight-set loss to Petra Kvitova. The 25th-seeded Czech, a semifinalist at Wimbledon last year and the winner of the Australian Open tuneup in Brisbane, continued her strong play with a 7-6 (7-5), 6-3 victory.

"I was focused on each point, mainly the big points," said Kvitova. "Each game was very close. I like this court and I like this crowd. Unfortunately it was against me. But it was still very nice."

Kvitova earned an early break in the match, but Stosur fought back to force a tiebreaker, which the 20-year-old Czech won with a crosscourt backhand. She took the momentum into the second set and raced out to a 3-0 lead, an advantage that Stosur was unable to overcome.

"I actually thought I played really well so, it's hard to walk off the court [with a loss]," said Stosur, who has never been past the fourth round in her country's Grand Slam. "It was so close, I mean, that first set. Don't really know how I lost it, to be honest. Felt like I started playing a bit better and was probably on top of her and then all of a sudden it was gone and I was a set down. I thought she played extremely well pretty much the whole way through."

Kvitova will next meet Italy's Flavia Pennetta, as the 22nd seed rallied past 10th-seeded Shahar Peer of Israel, 3-6, 7-6 (7-3), 6-4.

Zvonareva, who is trying to reach a third straight Grand Slam final after losing in title matches at both Wimbledon and the U.S. Open last year, needed just 34 minutes to capture the first set on Saturday and gutted out a near 1 1/2-hour second set to advance. In fact, Zvonareva had to rally from a 5-3 deficit in the tiebreaker and is now one victory away from her second straight Australian Open semifinal.

"I think I'm just a different player than before," Zvonareva said. "I'm more experienced, more mature. It's not only about tiebreaks. That's about the whole game. I think I know myself better and I know what game I want to play, and it helps me during the key points."

Zvonareva, who meets Iveta Benesova in the fourth round after the Czech knocked off 16th-seeded Russian Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova in three sets on Saturday, needs to win the title next week and have top-seeded Caroline Wozniacki not reach the semifinals to take the No. 1 ranking after this year's initial Grand Slam event.

Clijsters, the former world No. 1 who beat Zvonareva in the U.S. Open final last summer for her second straight title at Flushing Meadows, had breezed through the first two rounds this week. She put a 6-0, 6-0 whipping on former world No. 1 Dinara Safina in round one and dropped a mere four games in the second round against Carla Suarez Navarro.

Cornet, celebrating her 21st birthday, made the Belgian star work a little harder on Saturday. She managed to break Clijsters to square the first set at 5-5, but was unable to take advantage and committed too many errors during the tiebreak. Clijsters broke serve in the fourth game of the second set and cruised from there to reach round four.

"I felt a couple times out there I didn't finish off my points well," said Clijsters. "I felt that I was building my points pretty well when I was in charge, but a couple times missed easier volleys, felt that I could have maybe hit a drive volley and finished off the points a little bit sooner. I worked out there, stayed focused, stayed mentally tough."

Next up for Clijsters will be Ekaterina Makarova, who posted a 6-2, 3-6, 8-6 win over fellow Russian Nadia Petrova to advance.

Poland's Agnieszka Radwanska and China's Peng Shuai also won third-round matches Saturday and will meet in round four. The 12th-seeded Radwanska eased past Romanian qualifier Simona Halep, 6-1, 6-2, while Peng produced a 6-1, 3-6, 6-3 victory over Japan's Ayumi Morita.

Fourth-round play kicks off Sunday with the top-seeded Wozniacki taking on Latvia's Anastasija Sevastova in the first match at Laver Arena. Former Aussie Open champ Maria Sharapova begins the night session at Laver Arena against Germany's Andrea Petkovic, who advanced on Friday after Venus Williams was forced to retire with an injury.

Also on Sunday, a battle of Grand Slam champions pits Russia's Svetlana Kuznetsova against Italy's Francesca Schiavone, while eighth-seeded Victoria Azarenka meets ninth-seeded Li Na of China.


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