Venus Makes Winning Debut In Brazil

She may have needed eight match points to do it, but Venus Williams beat Mirjana Lucic-Baroni in her first round match at the WTA Brasil Tennis Cup. Olga Puchkova pulled off a big upset.

Published February 26, 2013 12:00

Venus Makes Winning Debut In Brazil
Venus Williams

FLORIANOPOLIS, Brazil - Venus Williams made a winning beginning to her WTA Brasil Tennis Cup campaign on Tuesday, beating fellow veteran Mirjana Lucic-Baroni in a rain-delayed first round match.

Both players put some impressive power on display but it was the No.1-seeded Williams who was the steadier of the two throughout, taking it, 63 63. Things got close towards the end - Lucic fought off seven match points to close from 0-5 to 3-5 in the second set - but Williams finally closed it out.

"At 5-0 I was a little too confident and maybe playing a little too relaxed, but she also started playing really well and really aggressive on those match points," Williams said. "She brought out her best tennis. It showed a lot of character from her. It's easy to give up when you're down 5-0, but she did really well to make it closer in the end. I knew it was just a matter of time before I got it, though."

Williams and Lucic-Baroni were playing for just the second time, the first time coming all the way back in 2002 at the US Open - one would think there would be some déjà vu from Williams, but no.

"I don't remember that match at all," Williams said. "It's been a long time - 11 years. I don't know if she even remembers it. But she's always been a power player. I don't think much has changed."

Williams also expressed how much she was looking forward to taking the court for a match that was originally scheduled for Monday night. "We were waiting from last night and this afternoon, too, but the rain was holding us back. I hadn't played a match for four weeks and was really looking forward to just finding some rhythm and hitting some balls, and trying to compete. That's what I really wanted.

"I felt I was ready to play. I'm happy the rain stopped and that we were able to finish."

It has also been a year and a half since Williams announced she had Sjögren's Syndrome, and almost 11 months since she returned to the tour playing through the disease - how is she progressing with it?

"I have to be smart with how I train, have a lot of rest, and I have to go to bed before 2 o'clock in the morning!" she said. "But seriously, I do go to bed early. And I eat mostly fruit and vegetables - mostly vegetables. Not a lot of sugar. I just have to listen to my body. Unfortunately it doesn't go away. I just have to manage it the best that I can and challenge myself every single day. That's my life.

"Personally I'm really proud of my results last year and my ranking. It isn't easy."

In total eight first round matches were on the schedule on Tuesday, with three seeds in action - No.3 seed Kirsten Flipkens fell to Olga Puchkova, 26 64 64, but No.5 seed Magdalena Rybarikova beat Kimiko Date-Krumm, 63 60, and No.7 seed Kristina Mladenovic beat Anne Keothavong, 63 64.

Mladenovic overcame some bizarre circumstances for her win. "I came here yesterday afternoon after playing in Memphis last week, and my bags didn't arrive," the Frenchwoman said. "I was waiting for my bags all night. I couldn't practice. And I had to get used to the conditions here, going from indoor to outdoor, and the heat too. So I really went into my match today with absolutely no expectations.

"I came early today just to hit with my doubles partner. In the match I focused on every shot, fought everything and found the rhythm, and I beat a very good player. I didn't expect to win this match."

Garbiñe Muguruza, Tatjana Malek, Timea Babos and Brazilian wildcard Beatriz Maia Haddad also won.

The first second round match was at night - Jana Cepelova beat No.8 seed Annika Beck, 76(6) 64.

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