Serena Wins; Hingis, Safina Upset in Monday Play
Nothing says respect like talking about how you didn’t play your best after baking an opponent a bagel — but with the Williams sisters, who never “play their best,” it is commonplace, as it was Monday in Hobart, Australia, where Serena Williams opened with a 6-4, 6-0 win over Swede Sofia Arvidsson.
“I didn’t play my best but I just think I’m a little rusty because it’s a like I haven’t played since the US Open and only played four tournaments last year,” Serena said.
Although unseeded, Williams avoided the rash of early-round upsets that claimed No. 3 Flavia Pennetta, No. 4 Maria Kirilenko, and No. 8 Martina Muller on Monday.
Japanese qualifier Aiko Nakamura downed Pennetta, while wildcard Sania Mirza ousted Kirilenko, and Czech Lucie Safarova beat Muller, all in straight sets.
Among other notables, touted Dutchwoman Michaella Krajicek was dumped out 6-0 in the third by Frence’s Severine Bremond, American Ashley “Pebbles” Harkleroad lost to Sybille “The Whammer” Bammer, and Aussie wildcard Alicia Molik outlasted Croat Jelena Kostanoc 6-2 in the third after dropping the first set.
Martina Hingis’ pre-Aussie Open preparation took a hit Monday when the No. 5-seeded Swiss was beaten in three sets by last week’s Auckland winner Jelena Jankovic at Sydney.
“I just came from Auckland so I didn’t have much time to recover, but I was quite proud of how I managed to pull through,” Jankovic said. “I’ve had better wins, but obviously it’s a great win and gives me a lot of confidence.”
Hingis for her part looked on the bright side.
“Well, at least I’ll get a few days off,” said the Swiss former No. 1.
The two other seeds in action eked by in three sets in (6) Elena Dementieva (d. (Q) Sugiyama 6-0 in the third) and (7) Patty Schnyder (d. (Q) Dushevina).
Dinara Safina, who beat Hingis over the weekend in the Gold Coast final, also couldn’t recover by Monday as the Russian was beaten in three sets by unheralded 29-year-old Aussie wildcard Nicole Pratt.
“Obviously I knew she was in good form coming in from winning the Gold Coast, but I also knew she’d be a little tired, so I wanted to take advantage of that and make it a physical contest,” said Pratt, recording only her second career Top 10 victory.
Upsets on the men’s side Monday in Sydney was Spain’s Fernando Verdasco beating (8) Sebastien Grosjean in straights, and in Auckland Belgian Olivier “Coch” Rochus surprising No. 4 Jarkko Nieminen in straights.
AROUND THE DIAL:
Wednesday begins the Kooyong exhibition in Australia — is perhaps something wrong with men’s tennis when you’ve got two ATP events going on, but at the same time you’ve got a cash-grab featuring Roger Federer, Andy Roddick, David Nalbandian, Ivan Ljubicic, Andy Murray, Marat Sain, Tommy Haas, and Radek Stepanek? Someone add that thing to the ATP calendar…Is ESPN.com trying to send a message, running that thigh-rippling photo of Serena Williams? C’mon. That should come with an internet warning screen, “Content may be sensitive for people eating lunch.” Even my firewall software tried to prevent me from looking at it…From Tennisreporters.net’s Matt Cronin on IMG buying Tennis Week: “Tennisweek’s executive director, Andrea Leand, called and is very enthusiastic about her publication’s future. She gave major credit to IMG for stepping in and buying the publication, which was struggling after the death of its founder, Gene Scott. She expects to the publication to take a no-holds barred approach (that’s how she wrote and played) and doesn’t believe that IMG will interfere in editorial. She says that when the now six times a year publication re-debuts before Miami, that it will look and read better. She also noted how important it is for United States tennis to have more than just a couple of national publications. For those who are wondering, Neil Amdur, the former editor of World Tennis and the New York Times who was hired just after Scott’s passing, left Tennisweek. The advertising and production folks are also gone. Leand says that longtime contributors Richard Evans and Steve Flink will stay on and that Tennisweek.com’s Richard Pagliaro may stay, too.”…Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal are confirmed for the well-monied ATP Dubai tournament in February. Nadal is the defending champ, beating Federer in the hardcourt final last year…Andy Murray is up to a career-best No. 15 ATP Ranking after reaching the Doha final…Lleyton Hewitt has taken on former player and current pro golfer Scott Draper on as temporary coach after coach Roger Rasheed got tired of absorbing f-bombs and quit on Hewitt over the weekend…Dmitry Tursunov pulled from Sydney with a left wrist injury…Tuesday ticket holders in Sydney are getting their money’s worth with (3) Blake vs. K.Kim, (1) Mauresmo vs. Golovin, Safina or Pratt vs. (3) Clijsters, (1) Nadal vs. Guccione, (4) Petrova vs. Ivanovic, Spadea vs. (2) Davydenko, and (7) Schnyder vs. Peer…WTA Tour CEO Larry Scott has received a five-year contract extension…From the WTA: “The Sony Ericsson WTA Tour announced today the successful completion of the first stage of its Roadmap 2010 tournament application and selection process, with an unprecedented number of tournaments expressing an interest in being a part of the streamlined calendar called for under the Roadmap. 57 tournaments completed application information for the 48 available tournament slots on the 2009 Tour calendar that is expected to be approved by the Tour’s Board meetings in March 2007. In addition, 25 tournaments completed application information for the most prestigious 14 events contemplated under the current Roadmap plan.”…From SMH.com: “The diamond engagement ring weighing down Kim Clijsters’ left hand had people gasping yesterday. “It’s not a rock, it’s a quarry,” noted one observer. Clijsters is engaged to former NBA player Brian Lynch and will play with the sparkler on for fear of losing it. Clijsters and her fiance first bonded over dogs — bulldogs, specifically. She has a three-year-old named Beauty and a two-year-old great Dane called Diesel. Lynch has a bulldog named Mio. Clijsters will marry the basketball star in July and will retire from tennis at the end of the year to start a family.”
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