Seles says women are hitting harder

MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) — Monica Seles, one of the hardest hitters on the women’s tour, is startled by the power that has overtaken the women’s game.

“The balls are coming back so much faster now, and the serves also,” Seles said Tuesday after beating Venus Williams 6-7 (4), 6-2, 6-3 in the Australian Open quarterfinals.

Every girl on the tour is hitting hard. That's where the game is going.'' said Seles, who has won nine Grand Slam titles.It’s not all serve, like let’s say in men’s tennis. So it’s a very happy medium.”

LOOKING AHEAD: After her quarterfinal loss to Monica Seles, Venus Williams already was looking ahead to the French Open.

I've never been successful here, and I've done my personal best most times, and especially today, I did what I could,'' Williams said.But I just have the French Open in mind now, to end my nightmare there.”

Williams, the defending U.S. Open and Wimbledon champion, lost to Barbara Schett of Austria in the first round at Roland Garros last year.

VICTORY RITUAL: Thomas Johansson lamented that tennis in his native Sweden has faded in popularity, partly because sport thrives on flamboyant personalities.

Look at me, I'm not that interesting,'' Johansson said.If you color your hair red and you act a little bit different, then you’re interesting.”

Johansson reached the semifinals at the Australian Open with a 6-0, 2-6, 6-3, 6-4 win over countryman Jonas Bjorkman.

SHORT SIDE: Martina Hingis is used to playing against champions who tower above her: Venus Williams and Lindsay Davenport. But on Tuesday, Hingis (5-foot-7) was 4 inches taller than her opponent, Serra Zanetti.

“It was kind of nice to see somebody shorter on the other side,” Hingis said after winning 6-2, 6-3.

Hingis has won five grand slam titles, but none since 1999, when she won her third straight Australian Open.