Hingis joins the ousted at Wimbledon

<img border='0' align='left' title=' ' src='http://www.ndtv.com/convergence/images/thumbnail/ver1/a/aphingis.jpg' class='caption'> After four days without a significant upset, four top players were eliminated at Wimbledon on Friday, including former champion Martina Hingis.

Updated: February 25, 2007 11:35 IST
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After four days without a significant upset, four top players were eliminated at Wimbledon on Friday, including former champion Martina Hingis. Hingis, the 1997 winner who is in the midst of a comeback after three years off the tour, squandered a 3-0 lead in the third set and fell 7-5, 3-6, 6-4 to Japan's Ai Sugiyama. Fourth-seeded David Nalbandian, runner-up in 2002, lost 7-6 (9), 7-6 (9), 6-2 to 30th-ranked Fernando Verdasco of Spain in the third round. Women's No. 5 Svetlana Kuznetsova, a former U.S. Open champion and finalist at the French Open three weeks ago, was ousted 3-6, 6-2, 6-3 by Li Na, who became the first Chinese woman to reach the fourth round at Wimbledon. Eighth-seeded James Blake faded against 53rd-ranked Max Mirnyi of Belarus and lost in five sets - extending the American's record in five-setters to 0-9. Blake won just nine points in the last set as Mirnyi pulled away for a 6-4, 3-6, 4-6, 6-1, 6-0 victory. "He was red hot at the start, he was red hot at the end," Blake said. "Max Mirnyi red hot on grass - not a lot of guys are going to beat him." The 12th-seeded Hingis was one of only three women's champions in the draw, along with three-time winner Venus Williams and 2004 champ Maria Sharapova. She has made a strong return since her long layoff due to foot and ankle injuries. But Hingis couldn't put away the 18th-seeded Sugiyama, who had lost six of her previous seven matches to the Swiss player. Sugiyama, who turns 31 next week and is playing her 14th Wimbledon, converted all five break points she earned on Hingis' serve, including three in the final set. "She played a great match," Hingis said. "She's harder to play on this surface than on any other. She's very fast. She's a tough cookie. She's a strong survivor." At 3-0 in the third, Hingis lost four straight games to let Sugiyama take control. In the seventh game, Hingis slipped twice on the baseline, losing both points. She made three unforced errors in the last game, hitting a crosscourt backhand wide on match point. Blake rallied strongly from one set and a break down against Mirnyi to go up two sets to one. But the 6-foot-5 Mirnyi capitalized on Blake's second serves in the last two sets and played aggressive serve-and-volley tennis, winning 67 points at the net. "My served stopped going in," Blake said. "One of those things. He's one of the toughest guys to play with just a second serve. He proved it." Three-time defending champion Roger Federer, meanwhile, kept up his fast start. He had 50 winners and only 13 unforced errors in a 6-3, 7-6 (2), 6-4 win over 77th-ranked Nicolas Mahut of France. The only surprise came when Federer was broken for the first time in the tournament as he served for the match. He broke right back in the next game to close it out. "I realised early on that I wanted to be the dominant player from the baseline, whenever there's a rally from the baseline, that I'm in command," Federer said. "I tried to stay back a little bit more often and it worked. It was a tricky match." Nalbandian, who was beaten by Lleyton Hewitt in the 2002 final, had never lost before the round of 16 in three previous attempts at Wimbledon. "I didn't play good," he said. "I couldn't return any serves. I missed a lot of chances. He played OK. He didn't play great. I just lost by myself." Despite his high seeding, Nalbandian was not considered among the chief contenders to unseat Federer. Hewitt and Andy Roddick are viewed as the main threats. Kuznetsova, the 2004 US Open champion, reached the Wimbledon quarterfinals in 2003 and 2005. She lost to Justine Henin-Hardenne in straight sets in the French Open final on June 10. Li is only the second Chinese player to get this far at any Grand Slam; Zheng Jie made it to the fourth round of the 2004 French Open. Second-seeded Kim Clijsters ended Zheng's run on Friday, winning 6-3, 6-2 in the third round. Another Chinese player, Peng Shuai, faces Flavia Pennetta of Italy on Saturday. Henin-Hardenne, seeded No. 3, was the first player to reach the fourth round, beating 34th-ranked Anna Chakvetadze of Russia, 6-2, 6-3 in 65 minutes. Hewitt needed just over half an hour Friday to move into the third round. The sixth-seeded Australian had split the first four sets with 102nd-ranked Lee Hyung-taik of South Korea when their match was suspended by darkness Thursday. Returning to Court 1 under sunny skies, Hewitt broke Lee in the 10th game of the fifth set to finish a 6-7 (4), 6-2, 7-6 (6), 6-7 (5), 6-4 win. Friday's play took 38 minutes, while the match lasted 3 hours, 56 minutes overall. "It was all about survival out there," Hewitt said. "I made it tough for myself, that's for sure." In another match that had been suspended Thursday, Britain's Andy Murray completed a 7-6 (5), 6-4, 4-6, 6-1 win over France's Julien Benneteau to set up a third-round meeting against two-time runner-up Roddick. In their only previous meeting, Murray beat Roddick 7-5, 7-5 in the semifinals of the San Jose tournament in February on a hard court en route to his first tour title. "He's definitely a big favorite to win tomorrow, having been to the final of Wimbledon twice," Murray said. "His game's a little bit better suited to grass than mine." (AP)

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