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It's a More Serena-Like Effort

Williams rebounds from near loss to defeat Callens, 6-4, 6-0. Venus cruises and Americans Blake and Fish win.

January 16, 2003|Lisa Dillman | Times Staff Writer

MELBOURNE, Australia — Serena Williams found the ideal storage space for her Slam nerves.

Williams put the jagged opening-round adventure at the Australian Open in the rear-view mirror. Today, against Els Callens of Belgium, there would be no shouting and swearing -- not like the way she let a certain word fly in a three-set victory over Frenchwoman Emilie Loit, which earned her a $1,500 fine.

Williams had a few early nervous moments against Callens, surviving two break points in her first service game. But the 32-year-old Belgian played into the hands of the No. 1-seeded player, trying to out-hit her.

After trailing, 2-1, Williams lost only two more games, defeating Callens, 6-4, 6-0, in 56 minutes in the second round. It had been thought Callens would provide more of a test, having pushed Williams to two tiebreakers before losing in the third round at Wimbledon.

"I maybe put a little too much pressure on myself," said Williams, who is trying to win four consecutive Grand Slam singles titles. "As the match wore on, after the third game, I think I just calmed down in general.... I realized things could be worse. I looked at some of the score boards, and I said, 'Serena, you could be in that position.' "

That happened against Loit. But, in less than 24 hours, the Williams sisters have managed to send the message that those first-round annoying cobwebs were merely a temporary thing. The previous night, Venus returned to devastating form in the second round, beating American youngster Ansley Cargill, 6-3, 6-0, in 52 minutes.

Cargill was suitably impressed. After what the Williams sisters have done, what advancement does she expect to see in the next generation of female players?

"It would probably be a robot," she said, smiling. "I don't know what can be better than that. I already had a lot of respect for Venus. After a match like that, I'm scared to think what the next generation of women's tennis can be. Unless they can clone people."

Together, the Williams sisters are even more formidable. Which is why Australian Open officials decided to ignore the doubles rankings and made them the top-seeded team. Serena said she was "stunned and shocked" by the development.

Virginia Ruano Pascual of Spain used other words to describe the decision. She and her doubles partner, Paola Suarez of Argentina, won the French Open and U.S. Open last year. They were bumped to No. 2.

"It's not good because we have our ranking," Ruano Pascual said. "The system is our WTA ranking. This rankings says we are No. 1. The tournament has the possibility to change and they put it in and we can't do anything about it. We think this is not respect for us."

The Williams sisters aren't the only ones turning in one-sided performances at Melbourne Park. Fourth-seeded Kim Clijsters of Belgium needed 33 minutes to defeat Petra Mandula of Hungary, 6-0, 6-0, in the second round.

Two of the more impressive showings on the men's side today in the second round came from No. 6 Roger Federer of Switzerland, who beat Lars Burgsmuller of Germany, 6-3, 6-0, 6-3, and No. 23 James Blake, who defeated Jose Acasuso of Argentina, 6-1, 6-4, 6-4. It is Blake's first time in the third round at the Australian Open.

Blake's close friend and occasional Davis Cup teammate, Mardy Fish, recorded the biggest upset on the men's side on Wednesday. Fish beat No. 5 Carlos Moya of Spain, 3-6, 7-6 (8), 6-4, 4-6, 6-2, in the second round, saving two set points in the tiebreaker.

"Andy [Roddick] had his big year in 2001, James in 2002," said Fish, who also beat Moya last week in Sydney. "Hopefully, I can follow the trend or somebody can follow the trend. Not saying I really expected to beat Carlos twice in a row. I was just in the locker room with my coach [Kelly Jones] and I was just saying, 'Wow!' "

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