Venus and Hewitt power through at Japan Open

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TOKYO, Oct 4 (Reuters) Wimbledon champion Venus Williams powered into the Japan Open semi-finals with a 7-6 6-3 win over Australia's Alicia Molik today.

In the men's event, former world number one Lleyton Hewitt booked a spot in the quarter-finals by beating Spain's Ivan Navarro 7-5 6-3.

Williams's superior athleticism gave her the edge in the first-set tiebreak, which she took 7-4, and the top seed was never seriously troubled in the second.

The American wrapped up victory in one hour 33 minutes, letting out a scream as she ripped a forehand return crosscourt on match point.

Williams, winner of last week's Korean Open, has won 18 of 20 matches since capturing her sixth grand slam singles title at Wimbledon.

''I'm just doing what it takes to win,'' the former world number oe told reporters.

''Sometimes I played some impressive tennis, sometimes my errors hurt me. I'm just trying to stay positive, whatever it takes.'' Williams faces 17-year-old Caroline Wozniacki in the last four after the Dane's 6-3 2-6 7-6 win over Czech Klara Zakopalova.

Italy's Flavia Pennetta upset second seed Sania Mirza of India 6-4 6-4 in the bottom half of the draw while fifth seed Virginie Razzano beat fellow Frenchwoman Camille Pin 6-2 6-2.

HEWITT THROUGH Australian Hewitt overcame Navarro but the 2001 Tokyo champion had trouble with the serve-and-volleyer in the first set.

''He's certainly a different type of Spanish player,'' said fourth seed Hewitt, likely to face a sterner test next against big-serving Croat Ivo Karlovic.

''You don't see Rafael Nadal or David Ferrer rushing the net.

It took me half a set to get used to him but I got better as the match went on.'' Ferrer, the top seed following the late withdrawal of Roger Federer, eased through with a 6-1 7-6 victory over American Vincent Spadea.

The world number eight next faces compatriot Feliciano Lopez after the 10th seed ousted sixth-seeded Russian Dmitry Tursunov 7-6 6-4.

Seventh seed Karlovic scraped past South Korean Lee Hyung-taik 7-6 6-7 7-6 in an epic struggle lasting two hours 38 minutes.

Czech Tomas Berdych, the second seed, overpowered American Michael Russell 6-4 6-2 to set up a clash with Spain's Fernando Verdasco, who put out former Australian Open champion Thomas Johansson of Sweden 7-6 5-7 6-3.

REUTERS BJR RK1740

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