Sports

Williams takes a big step in her tennis comeback

Two seeded players fall on the second day of competition in Bank of the West Classic

By Rick Eymer

Palo Alto Online Sports

Serena Williams,‭ ‬who will turn‭ ‬30‭ ‬in September,‭ ‬is playing just her third tournament since winning last year's Wimbledon singles championship.

It's her first tournament on American soil since the‭ ‬2009‭ ‬U.S.‭ ‬Open,‭ ‬in which she reached the semifinals before losing to Kim Clijsters.

Williams looked healthy enough in dominating Anastasia Rodionova to the tune of 6-0, 6-0, in the first round of the Bank of the West Classic at Stanford's Taube Family Tennis Center. The match lasted 45 minutes.

"I felt good," she said. "I was wanting to be more consistent and I think I did that by not going for too much and not doing too much."

She recorded six service aces, did not have a double fault and won all 17 of her first-serve points in front of a full house.

There wasn't much drama to the match from the instant Williams established her serve and showed a consistent ground game.

"It was me being focused," Williams said. "I've personally never taken this much time off. It's totally different than at any other time after a surgery. Maybe this is teaching me to be patient."

A left knee problem and a right foot injury have kept the former world No. 1 player (a combined total of 123 weeks) off the court much of the past‭ ‬12‭ ‬months.‭ ‬She's ranked‭ ‬169th in the world and hasn't won a title in over a year.

"I always said if I play my best no one can beat me," Williams said. "Hopefully I can get back to that level. No. 1 is great but I really want to play well."

Williams, despite a 49-week absence from competitive tennis, remains one of the toughest players on the WTA Tour with‭ ‬479‭ ‬career victories,‭ ‬37‭ ‬career singles titles,‭ ‬including‭ ‬13‭ ‬Grand Slam titles,‭ ‬and‭ ‬20‭ ‬doubles titles.

‭"‬She's coming back and she's winning again,‭" ‬Russian Maria Kirilenko said after beating sixth-seeded Julia Goerges of Germany,‭ ‬6-2,‭ ‬6-3,‭ ‬earlier in the day.‭ "‬I really have to be focused every minute and ready from the first point.‭"

‭Only older sister Venus Williams, with 43, owns more career titles among active players. They have combined to win 12 doubles titles in Grand Slam events and own two gold medals for winning the doubles title in each the 2000 and 2008 Olympics.

‭Rodionova has not had a great year. She's on a five-match losing streak and opened the year losing her first six main draw matches.

‭Also, ‬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; ‬Slovakia's Daniela Hantuchova beat newcomer Rina Fujiwara of Japan,‭ ‬6-0,‭ ‬6-2‭; ‬Germany's Sabine Lisicki defeated Romania's Simona Halep,‭ ‬6-1,‭ ‬6-2‭; ‬qualifier Marina Erakovic of New Zealand beat Sweden's Sofia Arvidsson,‭ ‬6-2,‭ ‬6-1‭; ‬and Poland's Urszula Radwanska topped Ukraine's Olga Savchuk,‭ ‬6-2,‭ ‬6-4,‭ ‬in a matchup of qualifiers.

The‭ ‬25th-ranked Kirilenko,‭ ‬who reached the quarterfinal of this event last year,‭ ‬snapped a‭ ‬13-match losing streak against the top‭ ‬20‭ ‬with her victory.‭ ‬She'll play‭ ‬Williams next.

‭"‬She has a very good serve,‭" ‬Kirilenko said.‭ "‬I have to try and think it's just another match against just another player.‭"

Kirilenko is a five-time WTA Tour singles champion and is looking for her first title since‭ ‬2008.‭ ‬She reached the fourth round of the French Open and the third round at Wimbledon.

Goerges,‭ ‬ranked‭ ‬20th,‭ ‬won her first Premier WTA singles title at Stuttgart earlier this year.

The‭ ‬50th-ranked Morita had lost in the first round in her three previous appearances at Stanford,‭ ‬each time to the eventual champion.‭ ‬She'll meet Urszula Radwanska in the second round.

Ivanovic,‭ ‬a former world No.‭ ‬1,‭ ‬began working with coach Nigel Sears right after Wimbledon.‭ ‬She also returned to fitness trainer Scott Byrnes,‭ ‬with whom she worked with between July,‭ ‬2006‭ ‬and July,‭ ‬2009.

Hantuchova,‭ ‬ranked‭ ‬21st,‭ ‬has won‭ ‬16‭ ‬of her last‭ ‬21‭ ‬matches.‭ ‬The former world No.‭ ‬5‭ ‬reached the third round of Wimbledon.

Fujiwara made her WTA Tour main draw debut with the loss.‭ ‬The‭ ‬19-year-old played in a single ITF event last year,‭ ‬earning‭ ‬$343.‭ ‬She made‭ ‬$5,200‭ ‬for qualifying at Stanford.

Lisicki,‭ ‬ranked‭ ‬26th,‭ ‬is coming off a semifinal finish at Wimbledon.‭ ‬She had an‭ ‬11-match winning streak snapped by Maria Sharapova and has now won‭ ‬12‭ ‬of‭ ‬13.

The‭ ‬55th-ranked Halep reached the semifinals at Bucharest last week before making the‭ ‬6,447-mile trip to Stanford.

Erakovic,‭ ‬ranked‭ ‬121st,‭ ‬has won‭ ‬10‭ ‬of her last‭ ‬12‭ ‬matches after beating the‭ ‬59th-ranked Arvidsson,‭ ‬who has lost in the first round of four of her last five tournaments.

Bank of the West Classic

Schedule of play for Wednesday‭

Stadium‭

Singles‭

Christina McHale vs.‭ ‬Dominika Cibulkova,‭ ‬11‭ ‬a.m.‭

Marion Bartoli vs.‭ ‬Rebecca Marino

Agnieszka Radwanska vs.‭ ‬Kai-Chen Chang

Daniela Hantuchova vs.‭ ‬Maria Sharapova,‭ ‬not before‭ ‬7‭ ‬p.m.‭

Doubles‭

Lisicki-Stosur vs.‭ ‬U.‭ ‬Radwanska-Savchuk or Goerges-Strycova

Huber-Raymond vs.‭ ‬Jans-Ignacik/Rosolska

Court‭ ‬6

Doubles‭

Rodionova-Rodionova vs.‭ ‬Marino-McHale,‭ ‬not before‭ ‬3‭ ‬p.m.

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