Fri, May 07, 2004 - Page 23 News List

Daniilidou forces Venus to earn win

PROFESSIONAL TENNIS Williams, seeded third, is chasing her third straight title at the German Open. Top-seeded Kim Clijsters also advanced to the third round in Berlin

AP , BERLIN AND ROME

Eleni Danilidou of Greece prepares to return to Venus Williams during the German Open in Berlin, Wednesday.

PHOTO: EPA

Venus Williams put together her 12th straight win Wednesday at the German Open, but beating Eleni Daniilidou of Greece 7-5, 6-3 was anything but easy for the former world No. 1.

Kim Clijsters of Belgium edged Spanish qualifier Marta Marrero 6-3, 2-6, 6-4 at the US$1.3 million clay-court event, which features seven of the world's top 10 women.

"It was a good match," Williams said. "I was a little off today, but I was able to raise my game at the right time. I think we both did good for the crowd."

Williams finally rifled a backhand volley into the open court to end the contest in 80 minutes. After a close first set, she trailed 2-0 in the second, dropping the game when the Greek blasted one past her after an exchange of net volleys.

Williams, seeded third, is chasing her third straight title at the event. She ended a 14-month drought brought on by injuries at Charleston last month.

Amelie Mauresmo of France, seeded second, had an easier time in reaching the third round, needing just 50 minutes to coast past Gisela Dulko of Argentina 6-1, 6-2. Elena Dementieva of Russia, No. 9 in the world, edged Stephanie Cohen-Aloro of France 6-4, 3-6, 6-2,

Clijsters also trailed in the final set 3-2. The world's second ranked player, showing rust, needed three match points before finally claiming a two-hour match.

The Belgian said she was relieved when Marrero's drop shot fell into the net, ending a seesaw last game in which she twice had to fight off break chances by the Spaniard.

"I definitely didn't play the best tennis match of my career," Clijsters said. "I'm not consistent."

Clijsters wore a brace around her left wrist for tendinitis, which has sidelined her since pulling out at Indian Wells six weeks ago. The injury, she said, isn't completely healed.

Mauresmo, who won the event in 2001, ended a one-sided affair against Dulko when the Argentine netted a backhand.

"It was a good result for a first match," Mauresmo said. "I'm doing a lot of training. I have to get ready for the French Open."

Karolina Sprem of Croatia, Clijsters' next opponent, beat Meghann Shaughnessy of the United States 6-2, 7-6 (3). Williams will face 16th-seeded Anna Smashnova-Pistolesi of Israel, who ousted Nathalie Dechy of France 1-6, 6-4, 6-1.

ITALIAN OPEN

Roger Federer's recipe for success after his second-round loss in the Italian Open: More practice, more matches, less panic.

"I think people are looking at this as too dramatic," said the world's top ranked player after he was ousted Wednesday by unseeded Spanish clay court specialist Albert Costa 3-6, 6-3, 6-2.

With the top three seeds out in Rome in the first three days, the clay court competition seems more unpredictable than ever just weeks before the start of the French Open, the only Grand Slam played on clay.

The Swiss player joined No. 2 Andy Roddick and No. 3 Rainer Schuettler in making an early exit. More seeds dropped in the second round.

Last year's French Open finalist Martin Verkerk, No. 14, lost to Luis Horna, 6-4, 3-6, 6-4, and No. 13 Fernando Gonzalez was ousted by Nikolay Davydenko, 6-2, 5-7, 6-2.

Federer, a finalist here last year before going on to win Wimbledon and the Australian Open, looked in top form despite three weeks off the tour.

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