Venus Williams gets early test from Reeves
BY JAMES BECK
Of The Post and Courier Staff
If Venus Williams happens to win this Family Circle Cup, she will owe a debt of gratitude to the tournament for making Samantha Reeves a lucky loser in qualifying.
Not that Reeves gave Williams anything. Quite the contrary.
Reeves pushed the former world No. 1 every step of the way. In the process, Reeves upped Venus' chances of winning this tournament considerably. Venus is not only ready, she's steaming hot.
In the first set of her 4-6, 6-4, 6-3 victory, Venus looked like a player coming off injury and making the transition to clay surface. But what a transition she made the last two sets. Her serve was vintage Venus, accurate and overpowering, and she drilled brilliantly strong service returns and groundstrokes from both sides.
In short, Venus' performance was awesome. With Justine Henin-Hardenne's withdrawal from the tournament, Venus might actually have a cakewalk to the final.
DAY 2 OBSERVATIONS
-- Martina Navratilova had her chances to push Amy Frazier to the limit, or maybe even win. But Martina's physical skills at age 47 aren't what they used to be. She served poorly and wasn't patient enough to wait for good opportunities to approach the net.
-- Jelena Dokic can hit some of the prettiest tennis shots you'd ever want to see, hard and penetratingly deep forehands and backhands. That's when she is on, such as the first set in her 6-0, 5-7, 7-5 victory over Tatiana Panova. But she may revert back to set No. 2 proficiency the next time she plays. Dokic has the game to become an elite player; she just needs to find the right temperament in her game to reach that level.
-- Poor young Ashley Harkleroad. Where did all of her fire go? She was only a shadow of her 2003 self in a 49-minute, 6-3, 6-1 loss to Petra Mandula. Harkleroad's strongest shots were blanks as she appeared unmotivated and totally flat.
-- Serena Williams performed about the way she was expected to against a totally outclassed 176th-ranked wild-card entry named Kelly McCain. It was no match. Serena hit the corners and McCain wasn't prepared for a night in the stadium.
DAY 3 FORECASTS
-- Nadia Petrova is worth showing up at the stadium at 10 a.m. to watch against Akiko Morigami. This should be a walkover for the tournament's eighth seed.
-- Take a good look at the athletic Russian Elena Dementieva in the second match today in the stadium. She's a player who on a good serving day can beat anyone, but even her weak second serve should be enough to handle Anabel Medina Garrigues. The problem for Dementieva is that she is in the loaded bottom half of the draw that includes Petrova, Lindsay Davenport and Serena Williams.
-- It will be interesting to watch Jennifer Capriati in the third match on the stadium against Lina Krasnoroutskaya to see how she has recovered from injury and a loss of confidence. Capriati will have to prove that she is back from that devastating loss to Henin-Hardenne in the U.S. Open.
-- Davenport's precise groundstrokes and big service game should be too much for Jelena Jankovic in the 7 o'clock night opener.
-- The best match of the day might be the nightcap between Amy Frazier and left-handed top-spinner Patty Schnyder. Frazier handled Navratilova's left-handed serves and strokes well, but Schnyder puts an entirely different spin on the ball.
A player to watch in the bottom half of the draw is Petrova. The talented Russian is in the same quarter of the draw as Serena Williams, a player Petrova yielded only five games to in last week's quarterfinals at Amelia Island, Fla.
Petrova easily could spoil things for Serena again, if Serena survives Conchita Martinez in the third round.
Petrova then could challenge Lindsay Davenport in the semifinals. Petrova appeared to have Davenport beaten in the Amelia Island semifinals before losing in three sets.
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