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Dubai Defending Champ Venus Williams Opens With A Win

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Venus Williams, USA
(Photos by Karim Sahib/AFP/Getty Images)

DUBAI — Venus Williams' bid to hang on to one of her two remaining titles made a reassuring start as she quashed the challenge of one of the tour's brightest young hopes to reach the last 16 of the Dubai Open.

The defending champion's 6-2, 6-3 win over Sabine Lisicki, the 20-year-old Wimbledon quarter-finalist, contained consistent serving, well-timed increases in pressure, and a conspicuously tight focus.

A good week here is important for the five-time Wimbledon champion's belief that, approaching her 30th birthday, she remains capable of winning more majors, and that need showed in the quality of her performance.

There was only one brief moment when it seemed that the hard-hitting but variable German might find sufficient control to get into the match - when she played a brilliant game to break Williams' serve for the only time, and edge up to 3-4 in the second set.

Williams responded immediately, applying extra pressure on her returns to break Lisicki's delivery a fourth time, then smartly closing out the match for the loss of only a point.

She had been put through her paces robustly by her father Richard, before the match, and it appeared to have helped.

"I still try to listen to him," she said, smiling, "and not to rebel against what he says."

The champion's sharp start earned her a meeting with Belarus' Olga Govertsova, a surprise survivor who is coached by her brother, and who brought down the 14th seeded Italian, Francesca Schiavone, in straight sets.

If Williams gets past that as she should, she could go on to a semi-final with the top-seeded Caroline Wozniacki.

Posted by Shelia

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