BEIJING, (Reuters) – American Venus Williams rode out a second set implosion to reach the second round of the $6.6 million China Open with a 6-2 7-6 defeat of Russian Vera Dushevina yesterday. The world number three was the main attraction on the opening day of the WTA’s new “crown jewel” event and she served up a masterclass in grit and determination on the court where she won Olympic doubles gold with her sister Serena last year. Far from faultless from the start, Williams nevertheless always looked like having too much raw power for the 47th ranked Russian and wrapped up the first set in less than half an hour with a couple of blistering aces.
After failing to muster a single break point in the first set, Dushevina then raced to 4-0 lead at the start of the second and left Williams shaking her head in disbelief at how her touch had so completely deserted her.
“It got away from me a bit,” Williams told reporters. “I started making too many errors, she made some good shots and it quickly became a bit of a deficit for me,”
Williams has not won seven grand slam titles without knowing how to fight when necessary, however, and she dug deep to win the next five games and, after a brief Dushevina rally, claimed the tiebreak 7-1 when her opponent went long.
“I was determined to win the set and ended up playing some good quality tennis out there. I knew if I kept getting games it would make her uncomfortable and make her start thinking about it,” Williams added.
She next plays another Russian in Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, who beat Sybille Bammer of Austria 7-5 6-1. Earlier on centre court, French teenager Alize Cornet provided the upgraded tournament with its first upset by defeating 15th seeded Australian Samantha Stosur 6-4 4-6 6-3.
In other first round action, Italian 10th seed Flavia Pennetta came through a tough encounter with local hope Han Xinyun 7-6 6-2 to take her place in the second round. The draw had to be re-jigged after former world number one Ana Ivanovic withdrew from the tournament and called a stop to her season because of a respiratory problem.
Defending champion Jelena Jankovic also said her participation was in doubt after being forced to retire with a wrist injury during the final of the Pan Pacific Open against Maria Sharapova on Saturday.
The Serbian eighth seed said she would see how the injury responded to treatment before deciding whether to go to China.
The ATP tournament gets underway on Monday with world number two Rafael Nadal heading a strong field.