Henin’s serving trouble doesn’t stop win streak

The top-ranked Belgian advanced to the fourth round of the Australian Open.

MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) — Justine Henin ran her winning streak to 31 matches today, overcoming serving troubles to hold off 25th-seeded Francesca Schiavone 7-5, 6-4 in the third round of the Australian Open.

The top-ranked Belgian star will face Aravene Rezai or Hsieh Su-wei in the fourth round, and a quarterfinal against Maria Sharapova looms.

“I hate to look too far,” Henin said. “I just want to get ready, improve my game and be in my best shape. I know the draw, but I like to stay concentrated on myself.”

After retiring from the 2006 Australian final against Amelie Mauresmo because of a stomach illness, Henin skipped the event last year because she was going through a divorce.

She has dominated the women’s tour since returning, finishing 63-4, including two majors and the season-ending championship, in 2007. She added the Sydney International title last week to build up for Melbourne Park.

She got only 48 percent of her first serves into play and was lucky it didn’t cost her more against Schiavone, who has a similar style.

“It was really exciting. I’m glad to win in two,” Henin said. “She’s always given me trouble in the past, so it was a tough third round for me.”

Henin controlled the crucial points better than Schiavone, who frequently screamed or covered her face after mistakes.

After the two players exchanged four service breaks in the first set, Schiavone served at 5-5. The Italian double-faulted on the first point, then came a foot fault as she served at break point.

In the second, Henin was down 0-1 and 15-30 before winning 15 of 16 points in four straight games. Schiavone hit back, and had the ideal chance to get back on serve with double break point as Henin served for the match, but over-hit a forehand when she returned a second serve. Henin won the last three points to close.

Nikolay Davydenko, seeded fourth, advanced to the fourth round of the men’s draw, beating France’s Marc Gicquel 6-3, 6-2, 6-3.

Marcos Baghdatis downed 2005 champion Marat Safin 6-4, 6-4, 2-6, 3-6, 6-2 in a momentum-swinging match that started Thursday and stretched into this morning and completed the second round.

Safin was the last player to beat top-ranked Roger Federer in Melbourne, breaking up the Swiss star’s four Australian titles with a semifinal upset three years ago.

Baghdatis is one of three losing Australian Open finalists still in contention — a list that will certainly be reduced in the third round. He will play 2005 runner-up Lleyton Hewitt next. Fernando Gonzalez, who lost last year’s championship match, beat South Korean Lee Hyung-taik 4-6, 6-3, 6-2, 6-4.

Video of Baghdatis, a Greek Cypriot, holding a flare and apparently yelling “Turks Out,” emerged in the Australian media today, 10 months after it was posted on a video sharing Web site.

The 2006 runner-up did not apologize for the video in a statement released today in response to criticism from Melbourne’s Turkish-Cypriot community, but said he wanted to concentrate only on the tennis.

Cyprus has been divided along ethnic lines since 1974.

The International Tennis Federation and Tennis Australia both said they would not be making any comment.

Federer has reached the finals of the last 10 Grand Slam tournaments and won eight of them, losing twice to Rafael Nadal at the French Open.

Nadal and Roddick are into the third round and playing later today. Nadal faces No. 28 Simon Gilles and sixth-seeded Roddick is against Philipp Kohlschreiber in a night match.

Last year’s two women’s finalists were to follow each other on Vodafone Arena, with defending champion Serena Williams facing No. 26 Victoria Azarenka and fifth-seeded Maria Sharapova against another Russian, Elena Vesnina.

A win for Williams would send her into a fourth-round match against No. 12 Nicole Vaidisova, who beat Japan’s Ai Sugiyama 6-3, 6-4 today.

Wimbledon champion Venus Williams made 44 unforced errors and struggled with her serve in a grinding 7-5, 6-4 win over Camille Pin. Williams will face No. 31 Sania Mirza of India.