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Serena Storms Into Second Round At French Open

Photo By Susan Mullane By Richard Pagliaro

The day before she began defense of her Roland Garros title, a fit and focused Serena Williams declared she’s in her best physical form of the season. If today’s opening-round match is indicative of the top seed’s prospects for Paris, then the French Open fortnight is shaping up as another Slam success story for the five-time Grand Slam champion.

Playing with poise and purpose, Williams crushed Germany’s Barbara Rittner, 6-2, 6-1, to advance the second round at Roland Garros and extend her Grand Slam winning streak to 29 matches.

"My fitness is unbelievable right now," Williams said. "I just don’t get tired."

It’s difficult to get winded when you’re blowing opponents away.

Stepping inside the baseline to unleash searing strokes, Williams slammed 22 winners compared to three for Rittner, who was forced to play on the run from virtually the first ball to the last.

The 21-year-old Williams arrived at Roland Garros with two losses in her last five matches — a straight-set setback to Justine Henin-Hardenne in the Family Circle Cup final and a surprising semifinal defeat to Frenchwoman Amelie Mauresmo in Rome that saw Williams blow a substantial second-set lead — but rather than cause a confidence crisis, the defeats have only served to stir an even greater ferocity in her attack.

"e;It’s not difficult for me to play on clay at all, I love the clay," Williams said. "I just love it. Actually, it means I can be lazier. I don’t have to work as hard. I can be out of the point and get back into it. I really like that."

Putting Rittner under immense pressure from the outset, Williams won 13 of her 16 net approaches and broke serve five times to advance to a second-round match against either Angelique Widjaja or Marie-Gaiane Mikaelian.
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