SPORTS

Daniilidou plays tough

MELBOURNE – Top seed and defending champion Jennifer Capriati struggled into the Australian Open fourth round with a 6-2 3-6 6-1 win over Eleni Daniilidou on Saturday, but still had some injury and form concerns midway through her title defense. Capriati had problems with her serve and movement around the court at times against the big-hitting Greek, who was ranked 80 places below her at 81st in the world and who was playing in Melbourne for the first time. «She was a tough opponent today. I’ve never played this girl before… I had no idea what she was going to do,» a relieved Capriati said. «It was important for me to pull through this one… and I did, I came out strong in the third set,» she said. The American appeared to have trouble with her ball toss while serving, throwing the ball high and wide to put herself off balance. «I think I served pretty well in the third set. Maybe a couple of times there I lost a little bit of concentration,» Capriati said. The world number one dropped her serve early in each of the three sets. While Daniilidou failed to take advantage in the first set, she raced to a 5-1 lead in the second after breaking Capriati twice more with her booming groundstrokes cutting the corners of the court. The third set followed the same early pattern with Daniilidou and Capriati swapping service breaks. But Capriati finally put her stamp on the match when she broke again and then reined in her own wayward service game. She reeled off six straight games to finish off a tougher-than-expected third-round match in one hour and 41 minutes. «Basically, in the third set I don’t think I let her play any more and I just really stepped it up and got really aggressive,» Capriati said. Capriati, who began a wonderful 2001 by winning her first grand slam title in Melbourne, said she was happy with her progress so far in her title defense. «I feel pretty strong, maybe just as strong as last year,» she said. «I can hang in there for another week, hopefully,» she said.Capriati will play Italian Rita Grande in the fourth round.