Asian stars shining brightly at US open

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Asian players struck early on the fifth day of the US Open Friday with both Sania Mirza of India and Paradorn Srichiphan of Thailand among the winners.

Mirza continued her rapid rise up the rankings by reaching the last 16 of a Grand Slam tournament for the first time.

The 18-year-old starlet edged France’s Marion Bartoli in a first set tie-break and went on to win 7-6 (7/4), 6-4 in 1hr 35min to set up the prospect of a mouth-watering fourth round tie against top seed Maria Sharapova of Russia.

Mirza came into Flushing Meadow as the player whose world ranking had moved up the fastest of anyone on the WTA tour in the last year charging from 326th to 42nd – 284 places.

That included a loss to Serena Williams in the third round of the Australian Open in January, a performance that launched her breakthrough season.

In what was a topsy-turvy match with each player struggling to hold on to their serves, Mirza was the one who took most of the initiatives with the 20-year-old French player, who plays double-handed on both sides in the image of Monica Seles, stubborn in defence.

The pride of Hyderabad ended with 45 winners to 4 for Bartoli with unforced errors almost exactly the other way around at 4-49.

“I just came here hoping to win one round and I have won three so I am happy about that,” she said.

Turning to a possible meeting with Sharapova in the next round Mirza said that she had never played the Russian and never even met her.

“I don’t think I will be intimidated but it will be obviously a big match for me.”

Asian No. 1 Paradorn made it into the third round of a Grand Slam tournament for the first time this year with his 6-4, 7-5, 6-3 upset of sixth-seeded Russian Nikolay Davydenko.

The 26-year-old Thai was the beneficiary of two key errors by Davydenko, whose only two double faults of the match came at key moments in the third set.

The first let Paradorn break back to level the set at 2-2. The Thai then earned the decisive break in a marathon eighth game that went to deuce five times.

It wasn’t until after the fifth deuce that Paradorn got his chance, courtesy of the second Davydenko double fault.

He seized the opportunity and then served out the match in front of a vocal crowd of supporters in the relatively intimate confines of the Grandstand court.

Paradrn will next take on the second oldest-man in the tournament, 33-year-old Davide Sanguinetti of Itay who defeated out-of-form Spaniard Carlos Moya 3-6, 6-1, 6-2, 6-4.

Spain’s Fernando Verdasco, who ousted Tim Henman in his first outing joined Paradorn and Sanguinetti in the third round with a 6-4, 6-2, 7-5 win over Paul Capdeville of Chile.

Top seeds Roger Federer and Maria Sharapova were both scheduled to be in action later Friday having coasted through their opening two rounds.

Sharapova was up early against Julia Schruff, a 23-year-old German playing in the third round of a Grand Slam event for the first time.

The Russian has dropped just three games in two lopsided rounds and more crucially she has not needed to overtax a painful muscle in her chest that hampered her preparations for Flushing Meadows.

Federer was bringing down the curtain in the featured second round night match in the Arthur Ashe Stadium against the wily French veteran Fabrice Santoro.

Like Sharapova, Federer has been miserly so far allowing just three games in the first round to the hapless Ivo Minar of the Czech Republic.

With Andy Roddick a shock first round casualty, Australia’s Lleyton Hewitt is the next highest seed and the Australian, who won here in 2001, went up against Jose Acasuso of Argentina, a clay-court specialist trying to adapt his game to the faster hardcourts.