- US Open
Venus rolls back years to crush Flipkens
Venus Williams had never lost in 14 attempts in the first round of the US Open, though she never had to face an opponent ranked in the top 30 at that stage.
Williams was usually the seeded player, but after two years of illness and injury, the seven-time major champion was the one pulling off the upset on Monday when she defeated Wimbledon semi-finalist Kirsten Flipkens.
Having seen her ranking fall to No. 60, Williams beat 12th seed Flipkens 6-1 6-2 for one of her biggest wins since she pulled out of this tournament two years ago because of Sjogren's syndrome, an autoimmune disease.
"For me, I stay positive because I know I can play great tennis," Williams said. "Sometimes you just have to go through more than what you want to go through. Sometimes you have to have losses. When I had losses, it always motivates me a lot to do better and to work harder."
Williams, 33, looked strong on Monday, fighting off three break points at 2-2 in the second set in a game that went to deuce six times.
"If Venus is there - if she's fit, if she's focused - she's a top-10 player," Flipkens said. "Everybody who knows a little bit of the game of tennis can see that. Today, she was like a top-10 player."
Bothered by a lower back injury, Williams was playing just her third event since a first-round loss at the French Open. She hadn't defeated a top-20 opponent since last October.
"I realize that I haven't had a lot of chances to play this year or a lot of chances to play healthy this year, have had injuries and what have you," she said. "So I'm just going to have to keep working my way into it maybe more than some of the other players. But I know I can do that."
Flipkens, meanwhile, had been enjoying the best year of her career. The Belgian had never reached the last 16 at a major before the Australian Open, then made her run at Wimbledon.
Hours after Venus advanced, sister Serena Williams was so dominant in her opener that her opponent really needed a hug.
So midway through the second set of defending champion Williams' 6-0, 6-1 victory, Francesca Schiavone wandered behind the baseline, found a ball boy and enveloped him in a full-fledged embrace.
It was that kind of evening for Schiavone, an often-demonstrative player who is certainly no pushover: she won the 2010 French Open, and was runner-up a year later. She's been ranked as high as world number four but is 54th this week.
"I knew playing a former grand slam champion in the first round was a really, really tough draw," Williams said, "so I tried to be super serious."
World number one Williams was nearly perfect, making only eight unforced errors with 13 winners to her opponent's three, hitting serves faster than 115 mph, and taking the first 10 games.
"It was tough today," said Schiavone, who is working with Peter Lundgren, one of Roger Federer's former coaches. "Really, really tough."
When Schiavone finally got on the board more than 50 minutes into the match, holding serve to win her first game with a volley winner, she swung her right fist in a celebratory roundhouse punch and shouted. Her face then broke into a wide smile while she strutted to the sideline, and she tossed her racket toward her changeover chair.
"It was very, very nice to win a game," Schiavone said. "For the first time in my life, I felt joy from winning a single game."
At Williams' news conference, she was asked by an Italian reporter: "Did you really want to win 6-0 6-0 against the poor Schiavone?"
That drew a chuckle from Williams, who responded: "No, it wasn't that. I was just out there, trying to be focused."
In a closely contested match on Monday afternoon, American Sloane Stephens recorded a 4-6 6-3 7-6 (5) victory over Mandy Minella of Luxembourg.
Third seed Agnieszka Radwanska cruised through her opener, beating Silvia Soler Espinosa 6-1 6-2.
Fifth seed Li Na needed just 64 minutes to win her first-round match against Olga Govortsova. Li didn't face a break point and hit 28 winners, winning 6-2 6-2.
Sabine Lisicki, seeded 16th and the Wimbledon runner-up, beat Vera Dushevina 6-2 7-6 (3).