Venus, Federer grind out wins in Florida

BY foxsports • March 29, 2010

Venus Williams, all dressed up for the Folies Bergere, was not exactly in a Can Can mood when she met Daniela Hantuchova after the rains here Monday at the Sony Ericsson Open. More Can’t Can’t, really, as she slumped to a 6-1, 2-0 defecit against the experienced Czech.

Hantuchova, who is not exactly challenged in the leg department, either, used long strides to reach some of Williams’ best ground strokes and, for a few wild moments, must have thought that a first ever victory over Venus in 10 attempts was almost within grasp.

Not so. Finally discovering some control and switching into attack mode in the swirling wind, Williams turned the tables to earn a 1-6, 7-5, 6-4 victory.

The first set was a bit of a shocker for the elder sister who had only dropped one set to Daniela before today — and that was at the Australian Open back in 2002. But the 26-year-old Czech who was making her 12th appearance at Key Biscayne handled the conditions far better in the beginning and peppered the American’s defenses with her smooth ground strokes.

A Hantuchova break at the top of the second really forced Venus to concentrate on the task in hand.

“I haven’t seen her play so well in a long time,” Venus said. “Obviously I needed to do something and when times get tough I hit harder. It’s just me. It’s natural for me.”

That included some effective sorties to the net behind first serves and Hantuchova, despite the loss, can feel proud that she did not buckle in the face of the onslaught. She kept fighting, but at 5-5 in the third, the real force of the Williams game was brought to bear.

“Obviously at five all I was going pretty hard,” said Venus, adding with a grin, “I enjoy those moments.”

Which is why she has won all those Grand Slam titles. Can Can.

Earlier, Roger Federer had emerged in mid-afternoon — a lot earlier than seemed possible when Crandon Park was being deluged with tropical rain — to play one of those Frenchmen who are unlikely to hit the heights but can make life a little irritating for the top stars on all kinds of surfaces. Florent Serra is ranked No. 61 at present, but that makes him only the seventh ranked player in France — a fair indication of current Gallic strength in the men’s game.

Federer came through 7-6, 7-6 and obviously had to hit quite a few balls before he could claim victory. Some of them were put away with the kind of brilliance with which Federer has built his reputation. A couple of angled backhand passers were sublime and, in truth, they needed to be because Serra was just starting to make a real nuisance of himself, having broken back twice to cut Federer’s big second set lead.

Just to show that not all the brilliance lay on the other side of the net, Serra claimed one of the break back points with a stinging forehand up the line that left the Swiss standing. Federer had been shanking a few forehands in the wind and admitted afterwards, “I still had to tidy up my game a bit but I thought he came up with some good stuff. He definitely pushed me a little bit by playing really aggressive. But I dug out a few incredible things, especially at crucial moments. So I was happy with some of the moments I had today.”

Inevitably Federer gets hit with all sorts of questions, and this time he was asked what was the most important thing for him as a tennis player: to win a Grand Slam, to be No. 1, to win the Davis Cup or to win a medal in the Olympics. The answer came quick as flash: “To win Wimbledon.”

Then Federer expanded a little. “But then every player is different. Sometimes many of those dreams go hand in hand, you know, like the ranking. I guess for me, if I was able to pick two things, it would be Wimbledon and No. 1 in the world. I was able to do that in 2003 and 2004. Did that a long time ago.”

And who’s to say he won’t do it again?

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