Thu, Jul 29, 2004 - Page 19 News List

Serena struggles for win

WOMEN'S PRO TENNIS Serena Williams took more than two hours to defeat unseeded Jelena Jankovic, while Venus Williams left the tournament injured

AP , CARLSBAD, CALIFORNIA

Maria Sharapova of Russia during her match against Lilia Osterloh at the Acura Tennis Classic in Carlsbad, California, Tuesday.

PHOTO: AP

Top-seeded Serena Williams overcame a blister on her left foot and an unexpected challenge from Jelena Jankovic, but won her second-round match Tuesday at the Acura Classic.

While Serena took more than two hours to beat her unseeded opponent, older sister Venus had even bigger problems and withdrew from her first-round match against Gisela Dulko with a sprained right wrist. Venus sustained the injury last week and was forced to withdraw during the semifinals of the WTA tournament in Carson, California.

"The good news is I'm doing better," Venus told the stadium crowd over the P.A. system moments before her scheduled match. "The bad news is I couldn't get better enough to play today."

Serena's problem became noticeable during the fifth game of the third set of her 6-7 (3), 6-3, 6-2 victory. She pulled up lame with her left foot after chasing down a ball.

"That one game I just felt it," Serena said of the blister that developed during practice Monday. ``I had a lot of pain in my left foot.''

Wimbledon champion Maria Sharapova used a solid service game to overpower qualifier Lilia Osterloh 6-3, 6-3. It was Sharapova's first match since her surprisingly easy victory over Serena at Wimbledon on July 3 for her first Grand Slam title.

Sharapova breezed through the first set in 30 minutes, then held off Osterloh, who had a break point at 4-3. Sharapova held her serve for a 5-3 lead and finished off the match with a hard backhand return down the line.

With Serena holding a 3-2 lead on the changeover in the third set, Jankovic called for the WTA trainer. In an odd twist, both players required medical attention from the trainer that lasted a total of 10 minutes. The trainer worked on stretching Jankovic's back first, then taped the instep of Serena's foot.

"It was pretty painful," said Serena of the blister on the inside of her foot. "It was really awkward, which was why I was walking [that way]."

Jankovic, ranked 44th in the world, explained that she tired in the final set, as well as suffering from a stiff back.

"I thought I was going to collapse at the end," she said.

Serena said she would be ready for her match on Thursday against the winner of Wednesday's match between Eleni Daniilidou and Elena Bovina.

Serena, routed by Lindsay Davenport 6-1, 6-3 in Sunday's final at Carson, appeared intent on making quick work of Jankovic. When Serena took a 4-1 lead, it looked like it wouldn't take her long.

But Jankovic came back, broke Serena's serve three straight times and tied the match. Jankovic began to match ground strokes with Serena, who also started committing numerous unforced errors. Jankovic won the tiebreaker on two consecutive hitting errors by Serena.

"I think I could have won in straight sets, but I made too many errors," Serena said. "It boiled down to missing some key shots. It's a little disgusting on myself. I know if I made those shots, it would be a completely different story."

Serena came back and won the second set, although it was not as easy as the score indicated. She then took a 3-2 lead in the third set before finishing off the match winning three straight games.

"I came to win the match," Jankovic said. "I believed it to the end. Then Serena raised her level and I couldn't keep up with her."

No. 10 Nadia Petrova was the only seeded player to lose, dropping a 6-4, 1-6, 6-4 first-round decision to Elena Likhovtseva.

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