x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Venus struggles with serve, knee and opponent

Venus Williams overcame a bad knee and seven foot faults to beat 47th-ranked Vera Dushevina in the first round of the US Open.

Venus Williams struggled through her first-round victory over Vera Dushevina at the US Open.
Venus Williams struggled through her first-round victory over Vera Dushevina at the US Open.

Venus Williams, always vulnerable in the opening rounds of grand slam tournaments, came uncomfortably close to an embarrassing exit on the first night of the US Open as her Russian opponent Vera Dushevina got to within three points of victory. Venus, third seed and considered along with her sister Serena - a much easier winner on the opening day - as a potential Flushing Meadows champion, looked in trouble from as early as the third game when she required 10 minutes of treatment to her left knee. The winner of seven major titles, two of them here, was grateful in the end to celebrate a 6-7, 7-5, 6-3 victory over a plucky 47th-ranked opponent. The New York crowd played a big part in urging the elder of the Californian sisters through her traumatic first round encounter - and Venus promised to be better prepared for her next test, which will be against fellow American Bethanie Mattek-Sands. "I had some issues and I needed support," said Venus, who committed a total of 54 unforced errors during the 2hr 47min encounter. "I had a challenge on my hands. She played so well, moved so well. I had a lot of help from my box and the fans here." A remarkable tally of seven foot faults contributed to an erratic performance by Venus who said afterwards that she would pray for her injured knee to get better quickly. Venus, who has perished in the first round at the other three grand slams but has never failed to reach at least the fourth round in New York, was reluctant to discuss the seriousness of the knee problem. "I'm going to do my best to get as close to 100 per cent for my next match," she said. "I won't be complaining." If Venus's reputation went on the line at her home slam, then little sister Serena went "On the Line" in a different way - with a timely release of a book of that title. Serena, who is frustrated by her inability to break into the world of acting, had ample time to talk about her literary pursuit after brushing past the challenge of fellow American Alexa Glatch 6-4, 6-1 to secure a second round date with Hungary's Melinda Czink. Both Williams sisters will have a concerned eye on Kim Clijsters, the former world No 1, who came out of a two-year retirement last month and looks as though she had never been away. Clijsters, winner of this tournament four years ago, indicated that she still possesses the armoury to deal with Venus, if they meet in the quarter-finals, and Serena in the semis, as the Belgian effortlessly disposed of Ukraine's Viktoriya Kutozova 6-1, 6-1. It was wild card Clijsters' first appearance at Flushing Meadows since she beat Mary Pierce in the 2005 final - she was injured the following year - and she confessed to being "a little more nervous than usual". "Now it's a matter of trying to keep this going," she added as she looked ahead to her next assignment, against Frenchwoman Marion Bartoli, a player she has already beaten once since her comeback, The 14th-seeded Bartoli, a Wimbledon runner-up to Venus two years ago, is promising to put up a better display than she did in her recent 6-4, 6-3 defeat in the first round of the Cincinnati tournament. Bartoli, who conceded only one game in her opening victory over Paraguay's Rossana de los Rios, said: "I have to go on court thinking I'm the player with the better ranking so I'm supposed to win. This time I have a plan. I know what I have to do so it's going to be different." wjohnson@thenational.ae