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Serena Starts Strong, Suárez Edges Stosur

With First Lady Michelle Obama in the stands, Serena Williams won her Olympic opener.

Published July 28, 2012 12:00

Serena Starts Strong, Suárez Edges Stosur
Serena Williams

LONDON, England - Serena Williams picked up right where she left off at - well, pretty much everywhere the last few months - defeating fellow former No.1 Jelena Jankovic in her first match of the Olympic Tennis Event, 63 61.

Williams, the No.4 seed, offset 11 unforced errors with 20 winners during the 61-minute rout, serving particularly well - she hit eight aces in the match.

"I was a little nervous in the first set, but once I got relaxed I played a little better," Williams told reporters afterwards. "I actually think I played solid today. I felt the ball well. I missed a few shots, but at least I was going forward."

Williams, who has now won 29 of her last 30 matches, had a very special guest in the player's box: the United States of America's First Lady, Michelle Obama.

"They asked me if I minded if she sat in my box, and I was like, 'Of course not. Please. It would be my honor,'" Williams said. "I mean, I love Michelle. She's so cool. I've met her several, several times. Seeing her there made me feel better and made me want to play better. After the match I gave her a thumbs up, just to acknowledge I knew she was there - obviously it's impossible not to see her.

"I also loved her dress. She's always looking good."

Also in Williams' box was a former Olympian - gymnast Dominique Dawes. "It's pretty cool being an Olympian. Being a tennis player is my dream, but being an Olympian is really something I never dreamed of. You see people like Michael Johnson and Dominique Dawes who do so great at the Olympics, and tennis isn't the premier Olympic sport, so it's cool to be a part of such great athletes."

The other Top 8 seeds in action were all pushed to three sets, and they didn't all survive: No.6 seed Petra Kvitova served for her match at 64 54 but had to go into the third to put away Kateryna Bondarenko, 64 57 64; No.8 seed Caroline Wozniacki came from a set down to beat Anne Keothavong, 46 63 62; and No.5 seed Sam Stosur lost a 36 75 108 marathon against Carla Suárez Navarro, after having beaten the Spaniard easily at Wimbledon.

No.11 seed Ana Ivanovic and No.13 seed Vera Zvonareva won in straight sets, but No.10 seed Li Na was picked off by Daniela Hantuchova, 62 36 63, and No.12 seed Dominika Cibulkova lost to Tsvetana Pironkova, 76(4) 62.

Another former World No.1, Kim Clijsters, was the most notable winner among the unseeded contingent, beating fellow WTA veteran Roberta Vinci, 61 64.

When Clijsters came back to the tour in 2009, she pointed at these Olympics as her inspiration - but in recent times she wasn't sure it would come to be. "It's a great feeling knowing I'm here, because there were moments in the last year and a half I definitely thought about retiring again, not thinking I would even get to the Olympics," she said. "I'm happy I stuck with it and kept working hard.

"I still feel whenever I step out onto the court and feel good physically, if I play good tennis, I can beat a lot of good players," she added. "With that attitude, I'll go until I play my last match. For me it's a good attitude to have."

Flavia Pennetta, Francesca Schiavone, Peng Shuai, Yanina Wickmayer, Urszula Radwanska, Alizé Cornet and Elena Baltacha also advanced.

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