Azarenka Out, Venus Wins

South American No.1 Gisela Dulko upset Victoria Azarenka. Venus Williams powered through.

Published May 23, 2010 12:00

Azarenka Out, Venus Wins
Gisela Dulko

PARIS, France - Venus Williams made a strong statement in her quest for a first French Open, maintaining her perfect record over Patty Schnyder.

Williams, seeded No.2 at the second Grand Slam tournament of the year, played with controlled aggression in the one-hour, 20-minute match, hanging back at the baseline with one of the top clay courters of the last decade but moving in when needed and firing big winners - 25 in total - from serves, volleys, forehands and backhands alike. She ended up with a 63 63 victory.

"I'm always working on my game and trying to understand things a little better. Ultimately I'm playing more consistently," Williams said. "At the end of the day, whatever it is, you just have to execute and win the point. I've been doing that."

And exactly how confident is Williams, who turns 30 years young next month, on her chances in Paris? "It goes without saying. I always believe I can win."

Williams is now 11-0 against Schnyder, a former Top 10 player: "My record against her definitely helped me. I have been at stages in my career where my opponents have had one-sided records against me. It's not easy to overcome."

Check out 20 of Venus' best career moments in this special photo gallery!

Svetlana Kuznetsova, the No.6 seed and defending champion, shrugged off a slow start to beat Sorana Cirstea in the first match of her title defense, 63 61. Read more about Kuznetsova's win over Cirstea here.

It didn't take too long for the first upsets to come rolling in, as No.10 seed Victoria Azarenka hit 25 unforced errors in a 61 62 loss to Gisela Dulko, and No.20 seed María José Martínez Sánchez, who recently won her biggest career title in Rome, was ousted by Akgul Amanmuradova, 62 64.

"I had a very good strategy," said Dulko, who has now beaten Azarenka twice in a row. "At the beginning I was trying to play very good first serves and play her forehand, because that's her soft spot. I also wanted to vary my game. I think she played well, but I think I managed my strategy today."

The other seeds in action all advanced, with No.14 seed Flavia Pennetta, No.15 seed Aravane Rezai, No.19 seed Nadia Petrova, No.26 seed Dominika Cibulkova and No.30 seed Maria Kirilenko all winning in straight sets. Petrova and Cibulkova are former semifinalists here, and Rezai has blazed into the headlines in recent weeks after winning her first Premier title in Madrid.

"I've worked hard to be where I am now," said Rezai, who beat Heidi El Tabakh, 61 61. "I have everything to win and you have just this one life, one opportunity to seize. When you have it, don't throw it away. I fight to be among the best."

Andrea Petkovic, Agnes Szavay, Angelique Kerber, Yvonne Meusburger, Johanna Larsson, Varvara Lepchenko and Chanelle Scheepers recorded first round wins as well. Among the fallen ones were Anna Chakvetadze, a former Top 5 player and quarterfinalist here, who lost to Kerber, 57 76(2) 64.

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