Thu, May 13, 2004 - Page 19 News List

Serena looks less than super in win

PROFESSIONAL TENNIS The former world No. 1 had not played since pulling out of a tournament in Charleston, South Carolina last month, when her left knee flared up

AP , ROME AND HAMBURG, GERMANY

Serena Williams battles Maria Sanchez-Lorenzo at the Italian Masters in Rome, Tuesday. Williams won 7-5, 6-3.

PHOTO: AFP

Serena Williams wasn't quite in superhero form, but she still powered to a straight-set victory Tuesday in her first match back from a month-long knee-injury absence.

Wearing her self-described "Wonderwoman" outfit, Williams beat Spain's Maria Sanchez Lorenzo 7-5, 6-3 to advance to the third round of the Italian Open.

The top-seeded American looked a bit rusty after receiving a first-round bye.

Williams lost the first two games, won five in a row, then lost three straight to make it 5-5 in the first set. Williams also lost the first two games of the second set before taking control for good.

"It was a struggle today, I hit a lot of fly balls. I couldn't hit the ball in," she said. "But, hey, at least I got through it."

Williams had not played since pulling out of a tournament in Charleston, South Carolina last month, when her left knee flared up. She had surgery on the knee in August and returned to action in March by winning her first tournament back.

The 38th-ranked Sanchez Lorenzo hits with two hands on both her forehand and backhand and was able to dictate some of the points. On the important exchanges when Williams stepped up her play, however, the Barcelona native had no reply.

"I think I'm playing pretty well. I'm practicing very well," Williams said. "I just think that maybe I was off a little in the match."

The US$1.3 million Italian Open is a major clay-court tuneup for the French Open, which starts May 24.

Williams won here in 2002 and used the victory as a stepping stone for her "Serena Slam," a streak of four straight wins in majors that ended with the 2003 Australian Open.

Two years ago, Williams wore gold sneakers in her championship run here. On Tuesday, she was decked out in a white dress with a curious shiny, silver-colored band around her waist, and a head band with "Serena" written across the front in rhinestones.

"This is more or less Wonderwoman," Williams said of her outfit.

In Tuesday's only other second-round match, 17-year-old Maria Sharapova upset fellow Russian and sixth-seeded Elena Dementieva 6-1, 6-4. Sharapova, who won two titles in 2003, dominated the first set, then broke Dementieva's serve to close out the match.

Earlier, in a first-round encounter, Croatian teenager Karolina Sprem continued her good form with a 6-2, 6-2 win against Daniela Hantuchova of Slovakia. Sprem pushed Williams' sister Venus to three sets in the German Open semifinals on Saturday.

In other first-round matches Tuesday, 13th-seeded Conchita Martinez of Spain cruised past Ukrainian Yuliana Fedak, 6-1, 6-1; 2000 French Open champion Mary Pierce of France beat Argentine qualifier Gisela Dulko 6-1, 6-4; 16th-seeded Anna Smashnova-Pistolesi of Israel defeated Spain's Magui Serna 6-2, 6-4; and local favorite Maria Elena Camerin of Italy eliminated Jelena Dokic of Serbia-Montenegro, 7-5, 7-5.

Hamburg Masters

Top-ranked Roger Federer overcame cold conditions and a crafty opponent to escape with a three-set victory at the Hamburg Masters on Tuesday, while five seeded players lost in the first round.

Playing in long sleeves on a cool, wet and windy afternoon, Federer battled to a 6-1, 5-7, 6-4 victory over Gaston Gaudio.

"As soon as I saw the draw, I knew it would be tough," Federer said. "In this heavy conditions you have to grind it out from the baseline, you can't rely on a big serve for a few cheap points."

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