Venus maintains Wimbledon form in San Diego opener
By Matthew Cronin
SAN DIEGO, California, July 30, (Reuters) - Venus Williams continued her Wimbledon-winning form by thrashing Anastasia Rodionova 6-3 6-0 in the first round of the San Diego Classic on Monday.
Playing her first WTA tournament since claiming her fourth Wimbledon crown with a straight-sets defeat of France's Marion Bartoli, Williams looked fresh and powerful in polishing off the outclassed Russian.
Not only was her vaunted backhand smooth but she also punished her opponent with hard forehands.
"I was going for a lot,"
Williams told reporters.
"I just felt really aggressive, like I want to get the ball, move forward and go for it. My forehand has improved the most this year.
"I just don't think about it and I hit it."
After an injury-riddled 2006 and shaky start to this season, Williams found her feet in London, thrashing three top-10 players -- Maria Sharapova, Svetlana Kuznetsova and Ana Ivanovic -- before beating Bartoli.
Now ranked number 16, the 27-year-old Williams is hoping to emulate the form she showed in 2000 and 2001, when she won back-to-back Wimbledon and U.S. Open titles.
"I'm the anti-Venus," she said.
"I finally have two legs to stand on. I'm playing a lot of matches. I don't want to be injured any more and have to work so hard to be where I want to be.
"I'm at a really wonderful place in my game where I can stay there and keep getting better."
Williams won the San Diego Classic three times in a row from 2000 and says that she has matured to the point where she can take it easy on herself mentally.
"I'm much calmer now," she said. "I feel calm when I'm down and when I'm up and feel pretty even-keeled."
All the seeds that competed on the day got through.
Ninth seeded Russian Elena Dementieva rebounded from an erratic second set to defeat Catalina Castano 6-4 3-6 6-1.
Number 11 Patty Schnyder of Switzerland, who was horrified by her poor play at Stanford last week, turned things around and defeated American Jamea Jackson 6-2 6-1.
Number 14 Alona Bondarenko of Ukraine out-fought China's Peng Shuai 3-6 6-3 6-4 and 13th seed Tatiana Golovin of France overcame Argentina's Gisela Dulko 6-1 2-6 6-2
Williams and Vania King were the only Americans to post wins as Jackson, Jill Craybas, Laura Granville, Coco Vandeweghe and Brittany Augustine all lost.
On Tuesday, second seed Jelena Jankovic of Serbia will face King, who defeated compatriot Asia Muhammed 7-6 6-0, while fourth seed Nadia Petrova of Russia will go up against compatriot Elena Bovina.
Bartoli, the fifth seed, will also be in action against Japan's Akiko Nakamura, while seventh seed Martina Hingis of Switzerland will go up against Wimbledon quarterfinalist Michaella Krajicek of the Netherlands.
Top seed and defending champion Maria Sharapova starts her campaign on Wednesday.