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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Likhovtseva Falls, Kafelnikov Cruises




MELBOURNE, Australia -- Martina Hingis shot down one Spanish veteran and set her sights on another as she marched toward her fourth straight Australian Open title Wednesday.


Top seed Hingis took just 45 minutes to defeat former U.S. and French Open champion Arantxa Sanchez-Vicario 6-1, 6-1 and now plays Conchita Martinez in the semifinals.


In the men's draw, defending champion Yevgeny Kafelnikov crushed Moroccan Younes El Aynaoui 6-0, 6-3, 7-6 in their quarterfinal matchup.


Kafelnikov's thoughts are already turning to the possibility of meeting Pete Sampras or Andre Agassi in the final and the Russian knows he will not be the favorite for that one. "But they might have a bad day just like me," he smiled.


Tenth seed Martinez took two hours 35 minutes to win a baseline duel with Russia's Yelena Likhovtseva, the surprise fourth-round winner over U.S. Open champion Serena Williams.


Martinez, who lost to Hingis in the final here two years ago, used her experience and greater stroke range to see off a fierce challenge from the 16th seed 6-3, 4-6, 9-7.


The 27-year-old admitted the tournament was taking its toll. "I was a little bit tired today. So it was really tough to play so long."


Likhovtseva, who breezed past Williams in straight sets in the fourth round, unsettled Martinez by rushing the net, where she won 47 points.


"I thought I could win if I could get more volleys and go forward, but it didn't quite work,'' said Likhovtseva, who saved two match points at 6-5 before losing her next service game.


She said she wasn't too disappointed about losing her first ever Grand Slam quarterfinal, especially after her win over the No. 3 seeded Williams.


"I was confident today - it was a good win against Williams, my best, and it gave me more confidence against the other top players. I think I can continue from here and hopefully get seeded for all the Grand Slams.''


After a couple of years marked by major upsets, especially in the men's side of the draw, this year's Australian Open has gone almost entirely to script.


World No. 1 Agassi and No. 3 Pete Sampras - who missed last year's tournament - will meet in the first men's semifinal Thursday night, a match that is being seen as a "final before the final."


Second seed Kafelnikov will meet either fourth seed Nicolas Kiefer or 12th seed Magnus Norman in the second semifinal Friday.


After an extra-busy 1999 followed by a month off playing golf and skiing, Kafelnikov started the year slowly in losing all of his matches before starting his Australian Open defense.


He was taken to four sets by German Jens Knippschild in the first round at Melbourne and has steadily improved since then. But he had not really been pleased with his performance until Wednesday's victory over the hard-serving El Aynaoui.


"This is the first time in the tournament that I felt like, you know, I was enjoying myself on the court," Kafelnikov said.


Thursday's second women's semifinal pits world No. 2 Lindsay Davenport against comeback queen Jennifer Capriati, both playing near the top of their form.


Neither woman looks in as good form as Hingis, who has won three consecutive singles and doubles titles at Melbourne Park. Wednesday's victory took her winning streak in the singles here to 26 matches.


Against Sanchez-Vicario, Hingis showed no mercy, giving up just 26 points in the entire match.


So confident is the Swiss that she's already talking about winning the Golden Slam - all four Grand Slam titles and the Olympic gold medal in Sydney.


"This is a special year, but there's still a long way to go. I really shouldn't be thinking about it yet " she said.