Thu, Jul 28, 2011 - Page 19 News List

Serena Williams returns with Stanford win

AP, STANFORD, CALIFORNIA

The US’ Serena Williams returns the ball against Australia’s Anastasia Rodionova during her Bank of the West Classic match in Stanford, California, on Tuesday.

Photo: Reuters

Serena Williams made her belated return to WTA Tour play in the US by cruising past Anastasia Rodionova 6-0, 6-0 at the Bank of the West Classic on Tuesday.

Williams, troubled by a succession of injuries over the past year, played a tour match on US soil for the first time since reaching the semi-finals of the 2009 US Open. It’s her third event since winning at Wimbledon last year.

“Personally, I have never taken this much time off,” said Williams, who missed 49 weeks before returning at Eastbourne. “This is totally different from any other time.”

Williams, ranked 169th, moved smoothly on the court against the overmatched, 105th-ranked Australian, who has lost five straight.

“It was me being focused,” Williams said. “I’ve always said if I play my best no one can beat me. Hopefully I can get back to that level.”

She will play further tournaments in Cincinnati and Toronto before stepping back onto the big stage at the US Open.

“No. 1 is great, but I really want to play well,” Williams said. “Maybe this whole thing is teaching me to be patient.”

Williams’ opponent in the second round will be Russia’s Maria Kirilenko, who had a surprisingly comfortable 6-2, 6-3 win over sixth-seeded Julia Goerges of Germany.

The 25th-ranked Kirilenko, who reached the quarter-finals of this event last year, snapped a 13-match losing streak against the top 20 with her victory over Goerges, but faces a tough task against Williams.

“She’s coming back and she’s winning again,” Kirilenko said of Williams. “I need to be focused every minute.”

Seventh-seeded Ana Ivanovic of Serbia, playing her first match with a new coach and fitness trainer, was knocked off by Japan’s Ayumi Morita, 6-3, 7-5. Morita will next play Ursula Radwanska of Poland, who beat another qualifier in Olga Savchuk of the Ukraine 6-4, 6-2.

Slovakia’s Daniela Hantuchova beat qualifier Rina Fujiwara of Japan, 6-0, 6-2 to set up a second-round meeting with second-seeded Maria Sharapova, who had a first-round bye.

Germany’s Sabine Lisicki defeated Romania’s Simona Halep, 6-1, 6-2 and will take on Samantha Stosur in the second round; the Australian fourth seed also had a bye.

Also getting free passage to the second round was top-seeded Victoria Azarenka. Her opponent will be qualifier Marina Erakovic of New Zealand, who beat Sweden’s Sofia Arvidsson, 6-2, 6-1.

? CITI OPEN

AFP, COLLEGE PARK, Maryland

China’s Zhang Shuai fought off fatigue to upset Australian fourth seed Jelena Dokic 6-3, 6-4 on Tuesday to reach the second round of the US$220,000 WTA hardcourt event in suburban Washington.

After playing in a national tournament in her homeland, the 22-year-old was still jet-lagged after a 12-hour flight on Friday to Washington, but she ignored her coach’s suggestion that she should withdraw.

“I wanted to try because I want to win. I’m very happy,” Zhang said. “Very good win. I was sick. No tennis. Just sleep and eat. I’m really tired. For me it was very difficult.”

Dokic, a former world No. 4 now ranked 54th, said she felt no pain from a hamstring injury that prompted her to pull out of two events earlier this month after a first-round Wimbledon loss. She was happy to start her hardcourt run.

“I’m not too disappointed. I would have liked to have won, but I’m looking forward. The idea is to peak for the US Open,” Dokic said. “It’s quite a long season. The first tournament is always a warmup to get into it. There is a transition from clay to grass to hardcourts and I’m still getting used to it. There’s a lot of tennis still coming.”

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