Keeper of Secrets
Join Date: Feb 2002
Location: Speculation Land
Thursday, May 29
Venus overcomes rough patch
PARIS -- Venus Williams' play was so erratic, Mom sat up and took notice.
Williams hit forehands long, short and wide. Backhands, too. And her serving? Don't ask. It was not the sort of performance she usually delivers at majors -- unless the opponent is her sibling, that is.
Instead, it was a player with a losing record and ranked 110th who briefly threatened the run of Sister Slams on Thursday in the French Open's second round. Williams got her act together in time to beat Evie Dominikovic 6-3, 4-6, 6-2.
"I can't stay at that level and still continue to do as well as I'd like to at this tournament," said Williams, seeded third. "I've got to find my balance and find it soon."
She didn't look like a player ready to retake the No. 1 ranking from younger sister Serena. Dominikovic, who won two games against Serena at Wimbledon last year, offered a comparison.
"I was happy I was playing Venus and not Serena," she said. "Serena's a lot better and doesn't miss as much. Venus is more erratic."
Three top women hoping to prevent a fifth consecutive all-Williams Grand Slam final won Thursday in straight sets: Kim Clijsters, Jennifer Capriati and Lindsay Davenport.
Nine U.S. women reached the third round, but just two of 13 American men did: Andre Agassi and Vince Spadea, who's never won a tournament. Two U.S. men exited, with No. 24 James Blake eliminated by Ivan Ljubicic in a match suspended the night before because of darkness. Todd Martin lost to No. 25 Tim Henman.
Williams compiled 55 mistakes through two sets and finished with 68. She had seven double faults and was broken five times, including to end the second set.
To that point, her mother, Oracene Price, had been watching from the guest box with her chin on her hand. She suddenly straightened up to watch the third set, as if she were thinking, "Well, maybe I ought to be concerned."
Her daughter was. After closing one game with an errant backhand, Williams tapped her racket against her head several times -- about the biggest display of emotion she allows.
She arrived in Paris rusty, having last played May 4, when she didn't finish a match because of a stomach muscle injury. Still, Williams plays big points at big tournaments brilliantly, which is why she owns four major titles. Set aside losses to Serena in the past four finals, and Williams is 44-1 at Slams since Wimbledon in 2001.
Williams won Thursday because she kept conjuring up groundstroke winners, 31 in all.
"She hit one volley, and I thought, 'Whoa, that's amazing!"' said Dominikovic, 4-6 this year and not even listed in the WTA Tour media guide.
One particularly strong backhand knocked the racket out of Dominikovic's hand and into a courtside advertising sign with a "Clunk!"