Tennis: Williams sisters advance, Safina loses in Rome
ROME — Serena and Venus Williams ended lengthy breaks for knee problems with straight-sets victories over Swiss players in their opening matches at the Italian Open today.
Top-ranked Serena defeated Timea Bacsinszky 7-6 (2), 6-1 in her first match since winning the Australian Open more than three months ago. Fourth-ranked Venus handled veteran Patty Schnyder 6-2, 6-2.
Defending champion Dinara Safina, recovered from a back injury, lost her opener against Alexandra Dulgheru of Romania 6-4, 6-7 (5), 6-1.
Serena was down 4-1 and saved three set points at 5-4 before going to a tiebreaker. After dominating the tiebreaker, she ran off the next four games to secure the match.
Venus had an easier time against Schnyder, a lefty who had defeated Serena in Rome last year. Venus stayed in control of the match, breaking the Swiss player six times.
Venus had been sidelined since losing the Key Biscayne final a month ago.
"I think it was a pretty good performance. I felt good on court," Venus said. "She probably likes clay with her type of game, and I was able to execute pretty well out there on the court."
The sisters, former Rome champions, are preparing for the French Open, which begins on May 23.
The third-seeded Safina struggled for 2 hours, 40 minutes with her opponent and an erratic game.
She recovered from 4-0 behind to even it 4-4 but went on to lose the next two games. After taking the second set in a tiebreaker, Safina fell behind 5-0, and twice smashed her racket in frustration. She sent a forehand wide to give Dulgheru the match.
"I think the only good thing about this match was that my back didn't create any problems," Safina said.
A recent No. 1, Safina retired from the Australian Open in January with a lower back injury, and in her first tournament back — last week's Porsche Grand Prix — she lost in the quarterfinals.
In other results, two-time former champion Jelena Jankovic defeated Bethanie Mattek-Sands of the United States 6-3, 3-6, 6-1, Agnieszka Radwanska beat Roberta Vinci of Italy 6-1, 6-0 and Shahar Peer of Israel rallied to stop Polona Hercog of Slovenia 2-6, 7-5, 6-3.