venus

Venus Williams returns to Maria Sharapova, during their Women's Singles match on the Centre Court at Wimbledon, Wednesday.

WIMBLEDON, England (AP) — Venus Williams dominated her fourth-round match against Maria Sharapova, advancing to the Wimbledon quarterfinals with a 6-1, 6-3 win over the 2004 champion in a two-day match that included a nearly two-hour rain delay Wednesday.

Despite wasting seven break points in the third game of the second set, three-time champion Williams broke in the seventh and ninth games to advance at the All England Club.

Williams had 19 break points in the match, converting four of them. Sharapova failed to even earn a break point, and only pushed Williams to deuce once on the American’s serve.

After Sharapova sent a forehand into the net on match point, Williams smiled and waved to the crowd while her father, Richard, stood with his arms raised in celebration.

The match started Tuesday afternoon, but only three points were played before rain forced suspension. Early in the second set Wednesday, Williams and Sharapova had to wait through another rain delay that lasted nearly two hours.

The rain at Wimbledon this year has caused stoppages and postponements on eight of the tournament’s nine days.

In the quarterfinals, Williams will face 2004 U.S. Open champion Svetlana Kuznetsova.

Serena Williams, who overcame a calf strain to reach the quarterfinals, was scheduled to play top-ranked Justine Henin later Wednesday, while No. 31 Michaella Krajicek was playing No. 18 Marion Bartoli in another quarterfinal match.

Rafael Nadal advanced to the fourth round in the men’s draw, falling to his knees in relief after finally beating Robin Soderling 6-4, 6-4, 6-7 (7), 4-6, 7-5 in a rain-interrupted match that finished four days after they first stepped on court.

The 2006 Wimbledon runner-up finally won on his sixth match point, the final five coming two days after the first.

“The toughest match maybe (of) my career,” Nadal said. “Because the stops always were tougher for me than for him because I was winning.”

The match was scheduled to begin Saturday, but the players were pulled off the court during the warmup because of rain. After the traditional middle Sunday off at the All England Club, the match started Monday.

That’s when Nadal held a match point in the third-set tiebreaker, but he eventually lost that set and the next one. Play was suspended for the day with Nadal leading 2-0 in the fifth set.

“It’s difficult because the match point was out like this,” Nadal said, holding his thumb and finger close together. “For me it was tough because I have to defend the advantage.”

On Tuesday, they returned to the court but played for only 20 minutes until the rain again halted play for the day.

Resuming at 4-4 in the fifth set Wednesday, Nadal held serve in the 11th game — saving one break point — and then sat down during the changeover as it began to drizzle. While the chair umpire waited to see if the rain would stop, Nadal sat nervously shaking his left leg.

Play continued moments later, and Soderling was able to save four more match points before he sent a backhand long.

The Swede challenged the call as Nadal ran to the net, but the “Hawk-Eye” replay technology showed the ball was out.

Nadal, a three-time French Open champion, then dropped to his knees and later threw his wristbands into the crowd. He’ll next play No. 14 Mikhail Youzhny.

“I feel confident after this win, but for sure am a little bit tired today because (there) is a lot of tension every day, every hour,” Nadal said.

Soderling wasn’t as upset about the constant rain delays.

“I’m pretty good in matches like this,” Soderling said. “Today ... I didn’t put as many first serves in as I needed to, but still I had my chances. I had a break point.”

No. 4 Novak Djokovic also reached the fourth round in a match that took three days, and No. 3 Andy Roddick advanced to the quarterfinals in an encounter that took two days.

Djokovic beat Nicolas Kiefer 7-6 (4), 6-7 (6), 6-2, 7-6 (5), and will play 2002 champion Lleyton Hewitt in the fourth round. Roddick defeated Paul-Henri Mathieu 6-2, 7-5, 7-6 (6). The American trailed 3-0 in the third set and then 5-0 in the tiebreaker before saving three set points and winning the final five points to advance.

“He doesn’t have a serve where he’s going to hit aces the whole time, so I never felt like I was completely out of it,” Roddick said. “I know my serve can go in bunches, two at a time sometimes. So I was just concentrating on trying to get a point each time on his serve.”

Mathieu slipped on the grass on match point, and Roddick ran around the net to shake hands with the Frenchman on his side of the court.

Roddick will face No. 12 Richard Gasquet in the quarterfinals. Gasquet defeated Jo-Wilfried Tsonga 6-4, 6-3, 6-4.

Both Nadal and Djokovic complained about taking the middle Sunday off.

“I didn’t understand why we didn’t play on Sunday. The weather was OK, so much better than yesterday, Monday and today, too,” Nadal said. “They don’t think very much about the players here maybe.”

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