US stars crash as Molik cruises into quartersAugust 19, 2004 - 2:35AM
Danced out of the tournament ... Venus Williams. Photo: Reuters
Alicia Molik once again raised the Australian flag as the Stars and Stripes drooped to half-mast after third-round action at the Olympic tennis tournament.
Molik rolled into the quarter-finals and within one more win of a double shot at an Olympic singles medal with a 6-4 6-4 third-round triumph over American Lisa Raymond.
But the two biggest names remaining in the draw bombed out.
Defending women's champion Venus Williams tripped up against Mary Pierce less than an hour after fellow American Andy Roddick joined the growing list of seeded casualties in the wide open men's draw.
Williams, who was also the women's doubles champion with sister Serena in Sydney four years ago, had her hopes of a third gold medal destroyed in a 6-4 6-4 loss to Pierce.
And Molik's big-serving win over Raymond, along with Amelie Mauresmo's 6-3 6-1 success against Chanda Rubin, extinguished prospects of a fourth straight women's gold for the US in the women's singles.
It also left world No.1 Justine Henin-Hardenne with one less top seed to negotiate en route to the final.
The Belgian thrashed Australian No.2 Nicole Pratt 6-1 6-0 to remain on course for a semi-final with French Open champion Anastasia Myskina.
Myskina took two hours to subdue a boisterous and near-capacity home crowd inside the Olympic Tennis Centre with a 7-5 6-4 dismissal of Greek hope Eleni Daniilidou.
Molik, 23, set up a quarter-final against Ai Sugiyama with what she described as her best serving performance in 18 months.
"It was a really good sign," Molik said after her win over Raymond. "I don't really have much to complain about from today's match.
"There's so many positives to take out of it." It was Molik's seventh successive win, having started the roll in Stockholm last week, and a second victory over Sugiyama in their second career meeting would advance her into a semi-final showdown with either Mauresmo or Russian fifth seed Svetlana Kuznetsova.
Molik beat Mauresmo on a hard court in San Diego three weeks ago and won't fear the world No.2 if they indeed clash again.
The 23-year-old South Australian is also still alive in the women's doubles after teaming with Rennae Stubbs for a 6-4 6-2 win against Colombians Fabiola Zuluago and Catalina Castano.
Men's world No.2 Roddick, meanwhile, joined the top-ranked Roger Federer, among a host of other stars, on the Olympic scrapheap.
Roddick said he was "gutted" after succumbing 6-4 6-4 to big-hitting Chilean Fernando Gonzalez, leaving American hopes resting with Taylor Dent and Mardy Fish, who both entered the last eight tonight.
"It's not every day we get to play this," Roddick said.
"You can't say 'next year'. So it's tough."
Third seed Carlos Moya and eighth seed Sebastien Grosjean each needed three sets to make the quarter-finals.