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Tennis: Daniela breaks duck, but Venus happy to be back

it's doubtful whether Daniela Hantuchova flounced back into the locker room at Devonshire Park and proudly proclaimed, “No-one beats Daniela Hantuchova 11 times in a row”, as Vitas Gerulaitis was supposed to have done after finally ending a run of 16 consecutive defeats to Jimmy Connors.

The leggy Slovak beauty said her record against Venus never entered her head but she looked pretty happy when she brought Williams' comeback to a grinding halt at the Aegon International yesterday.

Without wishing to sound a killjoy, there were the mitigating circumstances of Venus's five-month lay-off.

There are limits to what even the Williams sisters can achieve and winning a third match in four days against the cream of the women's game after such absence turned out to be one of them.

In cold, blustery conditions that would have tested a skilled yachtsman never mind a tennis player, she found Hantuchova just a bit too steady for her — just as the world No1 Caroline Wozniacki had done at the French Open — and she lost 6-2, 5-7, 6-2.

Her sister Serena, who departed the tournament one day earlier, will no doubt find her in good voice at their Wimbledon lodgings this week.

She revealed that she and Serena like to sing to one another when they're at home as a way of encouraging one another.

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It was the lure of the All England Club rather than a musical duet that got her back onto the match court, although she admitted she probably would have delayed her return from the hip injury a couple more weeks had it not been Wimbledon.

“There's nothing like playing matches,” she said. “It doesn't matter how hard you push yourself in practice, there's nothing like a match.”

Slovak now meets Czech in the semi-finals after Petra Kvitova beat Poland's Agnieszka Radwanska 1-6, 6-2 7-6. The other semi-final will be between Australia's Sam Stosur and France's Marion Bartoli.

l Conor Niland’s dream of becoming the first Irish man to appear at Wimbledon since Sean Sorensen, way back in 1977, has been put on hold.

Persistent rainfall prevented his third-round qualifier against Nikola Mektic from taking place as planned yesterday afternoon and they will have another go today.

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