Serena Grinds, Elena Sails On
Published January 22, 2009 12:00
MELBOURNE, Australia - She had an easy time in her first round match on Tuesday but the storyline was completely different in the second round on Thursday, as Serena Williams was made to grind hard to defeat an inspired Gisela Dulko, 63 75.
In their only previous meeting, in the early rounds of the clay court event in Charleston last April, Williams was pressed by Dulko but was never really in trouble, notching a 63 64 victory. But in Melbourne the American was in all sorts of trouble, particularly in a one-hour, 19-minute second set, in which she was down 5-3 and six set points before reeling off four hard-earned games in a row for the straight set triumph.
"Today I was at a D-minus at best," Williams said. "But it's good I was able to win when I wasn't playing my best. I will definitely try to do better from now on. And it's good to know that these girls are bringing their A-games against me."
Dulko, who has three Sony Ericsson WTA Tour singles titles to her name and has beaten Top 10 players six times in her career, was at her best, mixing it up from the baseline and tirelessly retrieving Williams' huge shots. But the American - who has 32 titles to her name, including nine majors - regrouped just in time, moving into the third round for the 36th time in 37 career Grand Slam draws.
Williams was spotted back on the practice courts afterwards.
"I wasn't playing that great today. I felt like I needed to hit some balls and try to work on things," she added. "Lots and lots and lots of room for improvement."
Elena Dementieva, who has beaten Williams three straight times, including just last week in Sydney, had an easier time in her second round match, clubbing 20 winners to beat Iveta Benesova, 64 61. Dementieva, the No.4 seed, is now 12-0 on the season, having gone 10-0 to win Hobart and Sydney, then adding to that with a tough first round win here over Kristina Barrois and her second round win.
"I played a little bit better than in my first match; this is what I need if I want to improve, if I want to go all the way," Dementieva said. "It's a very good feeling. There are still lots of things I want to work on, but I still hope to play well here. This is why we come to play the Australian Open. I hope to keep improving."
The only other Top 8 seed in action during the day session was the No.8 seed, Svetlana Kuznetsova, who recovered from a tricky first round win over Anastasia Rodionova and cruised past Tatjana Malek, 62 62. No.6 seed Venus Williams, who has won her last 10 matches, played Carla Suárez Navarro at night.
The rest of the Top 16 seeds had mixed results. No.12 seed Flavia Pennetta and No.13 seed Victoria Azarenka both advanced with little trouble, while No.14 seed Patty Schnyder suffered a surprisingly quick defeat to Virginie Razzano, 63 61.
Former champion Mauresmo rallies to win, Azarenka up next
The lower tier of seeds went undefeated, with No.18 seed Dominika Cibulkova, No.20 seed Amélie Mauresmo, No.21 seed Anabel Medina Garrigues, No.22 seed Zheng Jie and No.31 seed Alona Bondarenko moving on. Mauresmo, who won this title in 2006, battled back from a set down to beat Great Britain's Elena Baltacha, 46 63 62, and will next face an incredibly in-form Azarenka."She's having a great beginning of the season," the Frenchwoman said. "She beat me very easily indoors at the end of last season. I know it's going to be a tough one. She's also very confident right now. But I will definitely try to show some things out there and we'll see how it goes. Anything can happen on the day."