Robson beats Venus; Serena next
Beating one of the Williams sisters is an accomplishment any young tennis player should celebrate. Winning consecutive matches against both of them would likely be a career highlight.
British teenager Laura Robson faces that task after beating Venus Williams 6-3, 6-2 on Monday at the Italian Open to set up a second-round match against younger sister Serena - the world's top-ranked player.
''I just like it on big courts against these huge players because I just go out there with nothing to lose,'' said the 19-year-old. ''I can remember seeing (Venus) play at Wimbledon when I was about 10 and I was kind of blown away with the speed that she hit the ball.
''Today when she hit it in the center of the racket, it was basically point over, so I just had to take my chances.''
The 39th-ranked Robson won the Wimbledon junior title at age 14, and at last week's Madrid Open she upset fourth-seeded Agnieszka Radwanska before losing in the third round to former No. 1 Ana Ivanovic in a third-set tiebreaker.
Both Robson and Williams struggled with the wind at the Foro Italico, with the young Brit hitting eight double-faults while the American veteran had six. Williams' errors, however, came at more inopportune times, including two double-faults in the final game.
''It's always hard to play high quality tennis in that wind,'' Robson said. ''I wish it could have been a higher standard but I'm happy to have won.''
Serena, who won the Madrid title Sunday, watched the match from the stands.
''(Robson) has a great game,'' the younger Williams said. ''She's really young, still. She's just so free and she looks great on the court and she's so smooth and she's a lefty, so that just adds a notch to her whole level.
''I've never played her before. I've always wanted to. So I have a tough second-round match.''
Serena's only title at this clay-court tournament came in 2002 but if she continues playing the way she did in Madrid - and in her previous two tournaments, which she also won - she'll be difficult to beat.
''She is playing probably her best tennis,'' Robson said. ''So it's going to be insanely tough but I'm just going to go out there and do my best.''
This tournament is the last major warm-up for the French Open, the year's second Grand Slam, which starts May 26. The top 32 players in the world are seeded for Grand Slams.
''I've said since the start of the year that I wanted to be seeded for Wimbledon and it would be great if I were to be seeded for Roland Garros, as well,'' Robson said.
The top eight seeds in Rome, including Williams, have first-round byes.
In other matches, ninth-seeded Samantha Stosur cruised past Su-Wei Hsieh of Taiwan 6-2, 6-3; two-time champion Jelena Jankovic overpowered Tsvetana Pironkova of Bulgaria 6-3, 6-0; Sabine Lisicki of Germany eliminated American qualifier Mallory Burdette 6-1, 6-2; and Italian wild-card entry Nastassja Burnett defeated 2008 finalist Alize Cornet of France 6-2, 6-2.
In a night match that was suspended briefly due to a lighting outage, 59th-ranked Kiki Bertens of the Netherlands beat 2010 French Open champion Francesca Schiavone 7-6 (5), 6-1.
In men's action, 11th-seeded Marin Cilic beat Andrey Golubev of Kazakhstan 6-4, 6-2, and Italian wild card Potito Starace rallied past Radek Stepanek of the Czech Republic 4-6, 6-4, 6-3 to set up a match against second-seeded Roger Federer.
In a late match, 16th-seeded Kei Nishikori of Japan dispatched Italian wild card Paolo Lorenzi 6-2, 6-4.
Nishikori, who upset Federer in Madrid last week, called for a trainer while leading 4-3 in the second set to tend to his right thigh but did not appear slowed while closing the match out.
Meanwhile, 10th-seeded Janko Tipsarevic withdrew with bronchitis and Lukas Rosol took his place in the draw. Also, sixth-seeded Angelique Kerber withdrew with an abdominal injury and was replaced by Lourdes Dominguez Lino of Spain.