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Saturday, January 22, 2005
Updated: January 23, 7:38 AM ET
Molik could upset Venus

By Pam Shriver
Special to ESPN.com

MELBOURNE, Australia -- For the first time since 1987, the top eight seeds made it through the draw. The biggest upset was No. 9 seed Vera Zvonareva.

What that means is everybody who came turned out to be healthy after all. Maybe it's a sign that women's tennis worst injury problems are over. The top four Russians all survived.

It's great to see both Williams sisters are still in. And No. 1 Lindsay Davenport is playing well. But they're the only Americans making it through. We're still looking for the next generation of top U.S. players to break through. They've been really slow to develop -- the slowest generation in the past 25 years.

There is an Australian women heading into the second week. Let's take a look at the matchups.

No. 1 Lindsay Davenport, United States, vs. No. 13 Karolina Sprem, Croatia
Davenport is playing well enough that it doesn't matter what Sprem brings to this match. Davenport's been converting many of her break point opportunities, and when she's breaking serve and serving well, you have to be better than Sprem.
Pick: Davenport

No. 10 Alicia Molik, Australia, vs. No. 8 Venus Williams, United States
This is the best matchup of the round of 16 along with Serena-Petrova. Molik is the most improved player in the past six months and Venus is a four-time major winner trying to regain her form of 2000.

Molik's form and technique is so much better. They're about the same mid-20s age. It should be a fun, aggressive all-court match. Venus came to net a lot against Anna Smashnova in the last round, and she'll need to come in again against Molik.

This match will come down to the intangibles. The Aussie crowd will be a factor. How Molik handles the biggest pressure match of her career could change the outcome. She's gotten a lot of attention so far and is undefeated in this Aussie swing. If it's a close match, I really think Molik can win it.
Pick: Molik

No. 3 Anastasia Myskina, Russia, vs. No. 19 Nathalie Dechy, France
Dechy is fortunate to still be in here. In the second round, Mashona Washington served for the match in the second set.

Dechy is a dangerous floater for Myskina because she can do a little bit of everything. Myskina didn't have to play a point against Lisa Raymond. Still, Myskina should get through.
Pick: Myskina

No. 12 Patty Schnyder, Switzerland, vs. No. 6 Elena Dementieva
They played last week in Sydney, and Dementieva was too tough for Schnyder, who was a semifinalist here last year. Schnyder's spins react well to this surface. She's a lefty, whose backhand is her weaker side, playing Dementieva, who can't serve to anywhere except a lefty's backhand and a righty's forehand. Schnyder's smart, tough, and should be able to run around most of those serves if she wants.

In the end it's hard to go against Dementieva's record in these matches. She was a finalist at two majors last year. As long as she recovers from a grueling win against Daniela Hantuchova in the third round, she should win.
Pick: Dementieva

ESPN tennis analyst Pam Shriver won 21 singles and 112 doubles crowns, including 22 Grand Slam titles.