SPORTS

Lena’s high hopes down under

Emerging as a steady performer on the Grand Slam tennis circuit, Greece’s top-ranked female tennis player, Lena Daniilidou, has advanced to the third round of the Australian Open following yesterday’s impressive 2-1 victory over Russian Tatiana Panova, ranked 35 in the WTA rankings. Daniilidou, ranked 81, who had also reached the third round of last year’s US Open to become this country’s first player – male or female – to do so in any Grand Slam tournament, conceded just two games to Panova in the opening set, lost the second by 4-6, but rebounded to trounce her opponent 6-0 in the deciding set. The 20-year-old Daniilidou, who served well and proved commanding at the net to overcome her opponent in a lengthy match just under two hours long, will now face defending champion Jennifer Capriati, the world’s top-ranked player and tournament’s top seed, tomorrow. «I played very well against a great player. Now, I’m going to try and keep up my good performances against Capriati,» Daniilidou told Icho Radio, a Melbourne-based station catering to the city’s considerable Greek expatriate community, whose members have been offering their fervent support to the player from the stands. Yesterday’s session also produced a second accomplishment for Daniilidou, who advanced to the second round in the doubles competition with her Australian partner, Alicia Molik. The pair, who defeated Rossana Neffa de Los Rios of Paraguay and Daniela Hantuchova of Slovakia (6-3, 3-6, 6-3), will now face the tournament’s 14th-ranked Spanish team of Anabel Medina Garrigues and Conchita Martinez. For Daniilidou’s next opponent in the singles competition, Capriati, Melbourne proved to be a happy hunting ground last year. After astounding as a youngster to reach three Grand Slam event semifinals as a 14- and 15-year- old in 1990 and 1991, Capriati needed to overcome a series of personal problems before earning her first Grand Slam title at last year’s Australian Open. She went on to win the French Open and reach the semifinals at Wimbledon and the US Open. «I’m beginning to feel better,» Capriati told reporters after yesterday’s comfortable second-round, straight sets (6-1, 6-3) victory over compatriot Meilen Tu.