Venus reaches 3rd round at French Open

At 6-foot-1 (1.85 meters) and with those long arms, Venus Williams can make for an imposing presence up at the net when she decides to play there.

updated: June 02, 2008 18:22 IST
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At 6-foot-1 (1.85 meters) and with those long arms, Venus Williams can make for an imposing presence up at the net when she decides to play there.

Although she doesn't usually venture forward that much, things were different Thursday at the French Open.

The No. 8-seeded Williams played much better in the second round than in the first, using plenty of success with volleys to beat 241st-ranked qualifier Selima Sfar of Tunisia 6-2, 6-4.

Williams made 25 unforced errors to Sfar's nine, but made up for that by winning the point on 24 of her 35 trips to the net.

"It's really nothing planned. I just really feel comfortable at the net, and I don't know why. I just do. I like it up there, so I do try to get there when I can," said Williams, who lost the 2002 French Open final to her younger sister Serena. "It's just finally kicked in. I should always have been there, years ago."

She needed three sets to get through her opening match at Roland Garros. And she didn't start well against Sfar, getting broken to fall behind 2-1.

"I just tried to improve literally on every point I'm playing out there, just to play better every point, play better every match," Williams said.

She quickly erased the early deficit by putting together a six-game run, not dropping another game until she was ahead 1-0 in the second set.

"You know," Sfar said, "it's not easy when you're playing Venus."

Williams' third-round opponent will be No. 26 Flavia Pennetta of Italy, who eliminated 16-year-old qualifier Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova of Russia 3-6, 6-1, 6-1.

"She is obviously really good and works super hard," Williams said about Pennetta, "so I'll just be ready to just try to play some better tennis than what she does."

Other women moving into the third round with straight-set victories Thursday included No. 3 Jelena Jankovic, No. 7 Elena Dementieva, No. 13 Dinara Safina, and No. 16 Victoria Azarenka, whose 6-0, 6-0 victory over Sorana-Mihaela Cirstea of Romania was the first "double bagel" at the French Open since Serena Williams did it to Barbara Schett in 2003.

Seeded losers included No. 6 Anna Chakvetadze, No. 21 Maria Kirilenko, and No. 22 Amelie Mauresmo, a two-time major champion.

Top-seeded Maria Sharapova, who is trying to complete a career Grand Slam, was leading Bethanie Mattek of the United States 6-2, 2-3, when play was suspended because of darkness.

With Grand Slam tournaments stretched over two weeks, there is plenty of down time for players who keep winning _ as Venus Williams has done often enough to own six major titles.

Her sister, who will meet No. 27 Katarina Srebotnik of Slovenia in the third round, spoke this week about biding time by watching TV shows she's downloaded off the Internet. At the moment, she's into "The Jeffersons."

"She's very serious about watching programs. She likes her programming. That's Serena," the elder Williams said with a laugh.

"Maybe I like a movie, but I read a lot more books," she added. "I'm usually trying to learn something."

And does that mean she thinks there's nothing to be learned from watching "The Jeffersons"?

"I guess you can learn to 'move on up,'" she said, referring to the sitcom's theme song. "I'm more into moving up to the ball."