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tennisIlove09
May 13th, 2003, 08:18 PM
Serena Starts Rome Defense With Win


By Richard Pagliaro
05/14/2003

Serena Williams spent her first day on European red clay doing the dirty work needed to grind out a victory when her best play eluded her. With her sneakers and socks stained with streaks of red clay, Williams began her defense of her Rome title with a 6-4, 6-3 second-round victory over competitive Czech qualifier Klara Koukalova today.

Though the score seems to suggest a relatively routine win, the top-ranked Williams was tested in some lengthy first-set rallies that spanned all corners of the court. The reigning Roland Garros champion seemed to take charge of the match with a 3-1 first-set lead when Koukalova came back to win eight straight points.

"I started slowly and she played very well," Williams said. "I hope I play better than that on Thursday."

Holding serve at love to even the set at 3-3, the 20-year-old Prague native surprised Williams by taking the initiative in their baseline exchanges. Aggressively attacking Williams' serve, Koukalova broke for the second straight time to take a 4-3 lead.

During the ensuing changeover, Williams stared straight ahead as if she was strengthening her resolve for the rest of the set. When play resumed, Williams promptly broke back for 4-4. Still struggling to hold serve, she fought off three break points to eventually hold for 5-4.

The serve may be the weakest part of Koukalova's game and Williams exploited the weakness by breaking to seize the first set, 6-4.

The second set offered several lengthy rallies. Koukalova's ability to effectively hit down the line helped her produce some timely winners, but Williams again showed why she's the world's best player by elevating her game on the pivotal points.

In the seventh game, Williams ripped a vicious swing forehand volley crosscourt then followed it to the net where she smashed an emphatic overhead winner to hold for 4-3. Koukalova could never get any closer as Williams closed out the victory by slicing an ace down the middle to advance to the third round.

"I love it here," Williams said. "I love the people and the weather is always fantastic during the tournament."

TSequoia01
May 13th, 2003, 10:23 PM
I hope you have been working Serena, now go and defend your title. :cool: