Serena dances and then wins in imperfect outing

‘INTENSE’::Serena Williams made 36 unforced errors, including a complete air-swing in the second set, but nevertheless managed to beat Adrea Petkovic 6-4, 6-4

AP, BRISBANE, Australia

Wed, Jan 01, 2014 - Page 20

Serena Williams did a quick little dance behind the baseline to remind herself to move her feet. After a complete air-swing at the net in the second set, she smiled ruefully and drew in some long, deep breaths.

She netted a service return on her first match point.

Top-ranked Williams’ first competitive match of the season yesterday was by no means perfect, but the 6-4, 6-4 win over Andrea Petkovic at the Brisbane International was a decent start against a player who has been ranked as high as No. 9.

Williams made 36 unforced errors, including the big miss on Petkovic’s floater in the fifth game of the second set, but hit 35 winners and fired 11 aces, including one at 196kph to bring up set point in the first.

“It was an intense match, which was really good,” Williams said. “She’s been in the top 10 before and she was on her way to being even better. It was a good match for me.”

Petkovic is on her way back up the rankings after missing most of 2012 with injuries and started this season at No. 39.

Williams started last year in Brisbane with a title, the first of 11 for a year that included two major championships. She is back with the aim of carrying the momentum into this year. And she is already into the quarter-finals, where she is set to meet ninth-seeded Dominika Cibulkova, who overcame 43-year-old Japanese veteran Kimiko Date-Krumm 6-3, 1-6, 6-3.

Williams had a win-loss record of 78-4 last season and spent all but seven weeks atop the rankings, and she has not lowered her expectations for the year ahead.

“I had a similar question in 2012. I had such a good year winning two Slams and a [Olympic] gold and two doubles. It was a lot,” she said. “I just didn’t think I could do better. Arguably, I may have done better [last year], so I’m just going to be up for that challenge again.”

In another second-round match, fourth-seeded Jelena Jankovic beat Elina Svitolina of Ukraine 6-1, 6-3.

On the men’s side, sixth-seeded Feliciano Lopez of Spain had a 6-4, 6-4 win over Mikhail Kukushkin of Kazakhstan and No. 8 Jeremy Chardy beat fellow Frenchman Adrian Mannarino 7-6 (7/4) 7-5.


AP, AUCKLAND, new zealand

There was a big upset in the opening round of the WTA’s ASB Classic in Auckland, New Zealand, where top-seeded Roberta Vinci of Italy lost 3-6, 6-4, 6-2 to 259th-ranked Ana Konjuh of Croatia, only four days after her 16th birthday and in her first match at WTA level.

Konjuh, who won the Australian Open and US Open junior singles titles last year, finished stronger than Italy’s Vinci, who is ranked 14; 245 places ahead of her opponent.

Konjuh said her “Mom was going crazy” when she rang home after her win.

“It was a great experience. It was a great match,” she said. “I’m just really happy to be here and have a chance to play with these great players.”

Fourth-seeded Sorana Cirstea of Romania and former champion Yanina Wickmayer of Belgium both lost to qualifiers, while the second-seeded Ana Ivanovic and No. 3 Kirsten Flipkens advanced.

Former No. 1-ranked Ivanovic overcame a sore shoulder and saved four set points on serve on her way to a 7-5, 7-6 (7/2) win over American Alison Riske.

The second-seeded Ivanovic required treatment during the second set and played the latter stages with her right shoulder strapped.

At 3-5 and 0-40 down in the second, she faced the prospect of a difficult third set, but strung together a series of powerful serves to save the game, then broke Riske to force a tiebreak.