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Team WTAworld, Administrator, aka Nibbler
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GOLD COAST, AUSTRALIA (TICKER) -- Top seed Venus Williams stormed into the quarterfinals of the Australian Women's Hardcourt Championships on Thursday with a 6-2, 6-4 triumph over former champion Ai Sugiyama of Japan.

One day after returning to action for the first time since winning her first U.S. Open title, Williams improved to 7-0 lifetime against Sugiyama.

Making her first appearance here, Williams extended her winning streak to 18 matches. She has lost just 10 games in her first two matches after capturing her final three tournaments of 2001, including her fourth career Grand Slam title in New York.

``I don't have to hit the double-faults I was hitting today,'' Williams said. ``By the time I get to Melbourne, I won't be.''

The eighth seed from Japan, Sugiyama won this event in 1998 and had reached the semifinals in each of her previous three appearances at this Australian Open tune-up.

Williams' scheduled opponent in Friday's semifinals, Russian Nadia Petrova, might have to pull out of the match after upsetting fifth-seeded Italian Silvia Farina-Elia.

Petrova strained her right shoulder midway through the 7-6 (4), 7-5 win Thursday. She took a dose of pain killers and iced the injury after the match, but will decide after a warmup Friday whether to start against Williams.

Petrova had to be treated courtside after giving away a 3-0 lead to Farina-Elia in the second set, but then fought through the pain to win the match.

``I'm just a fighter and I thought 'No way. I'm not going to give it up' I told myself 'No matter what happens, I am just going to the end.'''

Henin, the second seed from Belgium, returned to the semifinals by sweeping past German qualifier Anca Barna, 6-2, 6-1. Henin is unbeaten in seven matches at this tournament, dropping just two sets.

Seventh seed Daja Bedanova secured the other semifinal spot when Slovakia's Tina Pisnik retired in the second set with a strained left quadriceps. The Czech teenager won the first set, 6-1, and had a 3-0 lead in the second when Pisnik retired.

First prize at this $170,000 hardcourt event is $27,000.
 
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