VWilliams unveils red corset, wins opening match at Key Biscayne by beating Cirstea 6-4, 6-3

By Steven Wine, AP
Friday, March 26, 2010

VWilliams wins opening match at Key Biscayne

KEY BISCAYNE, Fla. — Venus Williams said she looked “solid” in her opening match at the Sony Ericsson Open, a rather drab adjective considering she played in a red corset.

It was more like an eye-popping victory. Williams began a bid for a fourth Key Biscayne title and her first since 2001 by beating Sorana Cirstea 6-4, 6-3 Thursday night.

As is customary for the Williams sisters at the start of a tournament, Venus unveiled a new outfit — a corset with spaghetti straps and a flounce. The first eight questions at her postmatch news conference addressed the 1890s-style dress.

“Like ‘Can-Can,’” she said. “The motif is really about sporty sexy, and kind of that whole attitude of bringing that to my game. I usually don’t wear red. This is kind of new for me.”

The dress will be back in the third round, when the No. 3-seeded Williams plays unseeded Roberta Vinci, who beat No. 30 Anabel Medina Garrigues 6-4, 7-6 (5). With sister Serena sidelined by a knee injury, Venus may be the woman to beat in a tournament she considers her hometown event.

“I haven’t had a win here in awhile, and I’ll try to make that happen this year,” Venus said.

Hampered by injuries in 2009, she wore a strap around her right thigh against Cirstea but moved well.

“I looked solid out there, so presumably I was OK,” Williams said.

Both sets followed similar patterns, with Williams losing serve early and finishing strong. She swept the final four games of the first set and the last three games of the match.

“I haven’t played in a few weeks,” she said. “It just took a few games to kind of get some rhythm going and kind of really getting energy flowing. Toward the end my game got better and better, and I was happy with it.”

Williams won her 11th match in a row. She’s playing for the first time since February, when she earned titles at Dubai and Acapulco.

Former No. 1 Ana Ivanovic beat Pauline Parmentier 6-4, 6-3 and said her career is moving in the right direction again. With the victory she broke a four-match losing streak, the longest of her career.

“I’m feeling really good at the moment,” Ivanovic said. “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, so I believe in that.”

Top-seeded Svetlana Kuznetsova struggled in her opening match to beat Shuai Peng 6-2, 3-6, 6-4. Kuznetsova, the 2006 champion, next plays No. 27 Agnes Szavay, who shut out Alicia Molik 6-0, 6-0.

No. 8 Li Na lost to Timea Bacsinszky 6-4, 4-6, 7-6 (3). No. 10 Flavia Pennetta was beaten by Andrea Petkovic 6-3, 3-6, 6-0.

On the men’s side, lucky loser Nicolas Lapentti and qualifier Kevin Anderson were among those reaching the third round. The 33-year-old Lapentti, who made the draw only because another player pulled out, will face No. 1 Roger Federer on Saturday night.

Since Ivanovic won the French Open in 2008 at age 20, she has been slowed by injuries, most recently a sore shoulder, and a loss of confidence. She’s ranked 58th this week and out of the top 50 for the first time in five years.

Ivanovic recently hired Steffi Graf’s old coach, Heinz Gunthardt, and said she senses a turnaround in the past month.

“With Heinz, I can see the improvements actually almost on daily basis. It’s very encouraging,” Ivanovic said. “Now I’m surrounded with really good people. I’m very excited and motivated to play again and to get to the top.

“I just have to keep that in mind and learn from what happened and not dwell about it and not live in the past — just take positives and take that it has happened, and just perform and play like it’s a new me.”

She beat Parmentier despite some ragged moments, with 15 winners, 31 unforced errors and seven double faults. Parmentier hit only six winners while committing 23 unforced errors.

Ivanovic received a first-round bye because she’s seeded 25th. She’ll next play No. 6 Agnieszka Radwanska, who beat Ekaterina Makarova 7-5, 6-0.

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