Serena gets in quick workout

August 31st, 2006  
Team Infidel

Topic: Serena gets in quick workout

She wore a big red bandana and earrings not much smaller than tire rims.

Serena Williams was playing only her fourth match of the year, but she has never been reticent about making fashion statements, and yesterday was no different at Arthur Ashe Stadium, where the comebacking Sister wore a snug, Asian-style dress splotched with red and purple, and didn't so much defeat Lourdes Dominguez Lino of Spain as squash her.

At 24 years old, four years removed from her second and last Open title, Williams is unseeded here for the first time in eight years, and ranked so low (No. 91) that she needed to get a wild card into the main draw. She has been battling a chronic knee problem and been busy with an array of outside pursuits (a fashion line here, a perfume there), but she looked as daunting as ever against poor Dominguez Lino, who fell by a score of 6-1, 6-2.

All you need to know is that Williams had 34 winners and her opponent had three.

"She played very strong," said the 41st-ranked Dominguez Lino, who was playing Williams, and Arthur Ashe Stadium, for the first time. "I know she's not in her best (form), but it's Serena."

Williams prepped for the Open by spending a week working with Nick Bollettieri at his academy in Bradenton, Fla., and liked the results.

"My desire is as high as it ever was, and probably even higher," said Williams, whose second-round opponent will be Daniela Hantuchova, the 17th seed from Slovakia, who knocked off Bethanie Mattek of the U.S. last night. Hantuchova beat Williams in the third round of the Australian Open. "It's fun to be out there."

Meanwhile, the biggest threat in Williams' quarter of the draw, No. 1 Amelie Mauresmo of France, took full advantage of a rain-induced intermission, rallying to put away Kristina Barrois, a 131st-ranked German qualifier, 6-1, 7-5. Mauresmo, winner of both Wimbledon and the Australian Open this year, was trailing Barrois, 2-5, in the second set when Tuesday's rains stopped play. She ripped off five straight games to ease into the second round, her psyche bolstered by this breakthrough year.

"I think what I've achieved since the U.S. Open last year has really (given) me the right to, lose actually, to be more relaxed and to have less pressure on me, when before I was probably inside of me telling me, 'Am I going to be able to win one (a Grand Slam)? Am I going to do it?'" Mauresmo said.

With only two hardcourt tournaments behind her this summer, Williams didn't figure to be in peak form, but she showed plenty of muscle against the overmatched Dominguez Lino.

After knocking an easy approach shot long to begin the match, Williams settled in and ran the 5-4 Dominguez Lino all over, hitting a high angled volley to conclude a 23-minute first set, and a deft forehand drop shot to end the match.

In a depleted field - no Sister Venus and no Kim Clijsters, the defending champion - Serena could be around for a long while, rust notwithstanding. She said she is much fitter than she was a year ago, or even a few weeks ago. Someone asked if she thought she could follow the same path as Andre Agassi, who went from No. 141 back to No. 1, nine years ago.
"Absolutely," she said.

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