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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Kafelnikov Takes Easy Ride in Open




MELBOURNE, Australia -- Yevgeny Kafelnikov is the defending men's champion in the Australian Open here, but you would hardly notice. And the Russian is delighted about that.


Thursday, he waltzed past his former doubles partner, Daniel Vacek of the Czech Republic, 6-3, 6-0, 6-1, and quietly advanced into the third round. He is seeded second, and the bottom bracket that he is expected to represent in the Jan. 30 men's final is already drastically depleted.


Seeded players Nicolas Lapentti (No. 7) and No. 10 Tommy Haas lost Thursday and joined earlier lower-bracket casualties No. 5 Gustavo Kuerten, Cedric Pioline (No. 13) and Albert Costa (No. 15). That left Nicolas Kiefer (No. 4) and Magnus Norman (No. 12), both straight-set winners, as the last seeded challengers to Kafelnikov in the bottom half.


"I think the top half of the tournament is a lot, lot stronger because of players like [Andre] Agassi, [Pete] Sampras, [Mark] Philippoussis," he said. "All those guys make my life much easier."


The real threat to Kafelnikov may come from unseeded Lleyton Hewitt, an 18-year-old Australian who is the leader of the new ATP points race that began Jan. 1. He improved his match record this year to 12-0 with a 6-0, 6-0, 6-1 rout of Alex Corretja, the No. 26 player in the world. When Corretja finally hit a backhand winner down the line for 4-1, the crowd in the Rod Laver Arena responded with a huge ovation.


Hewitt will play Kafelnikov in the semifinals, if both make it through.


"Hewitt in the semis? I'd love that," Kafelnikov said.


In women's play, top seed Martina Hingis and third seed Serena Williams led a march of seeded players into the third round, with only No. 8 Amanda Coetzer of South Africa losing 6-1, 6-3 to Kristina Brandi.


Hingis extended her unbeaten run at the Australian Open to 23 matches with an emphatic 6-3, 6-3 win over Belgium's Justine Henin.


Williams finished off Nicole Pratt of Australia, 7-5, 6-1, hitting 34 winners to Pratt's three.


Troubled Australian teenager Jelena Dokic has denied accusing tennis officials of arranging tournament draws to stall her career and demanded a newspaper release a transcript of its interview with her.


Dokic told a media conference at the Australian Open on Thursday that the newspaper that published the report Wednesday had fabricated the story.


"I just didn't say those things," Dokic said. "I didn't even speak to him about what he wrote."


The outspoken Dokic said she had asked the Herald Sun to release a copy of the interview to prove her innocence and was disappointed in the WTA Tour, the ruling body of women's tennis, and her own management team had not supported her.


"I just think they could have stepped behind me a bit more," Dokic said.


The paper said Dokic had telephoned one of its reporters Tuesday night and told him overseas officials were conspiring against her by giving her difficult opponents.