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Friday, 8 November, 2002, 04:39 GMT
Serena races past Smashnova
Serena Williams
Serena is top seed and defending champion

World number one Serena Williams needed less than an hour to down Israel's Anna Smashnova in the first round of the WTA Tour Championships.

Williams, the French Open, Wimbledon and US Open champion, took just 54 minutes to beat Smashnova 6-2 6-2.

The American hit 28 unforced errors but managed 28 winners to Smashnova's none.

Williams, trying to become the first woman to defend her title at the Championships since Steffi Graf in 1995-96, faces eighth-seeded Yugoslav Jelena Dokic in the quarter-finals.

However, she said she would need to improve if she was to win the title a second time.

"I felt a bit rusty. I'd give myself a C-minus," said Williams, who has not played a tournament in over a month.

"It's a matter of mentally focusing in again. The tougher the opponent, the more I'll focus in.

"The way I played today it's not looking so good."

Jelena Dokic
Dokic has been in poor form recently

Dokic broke out of a late-season slump to brush aside Russian Anastasia Myskina 6-3 6-4.

The eighth seed, who had won just two matches in her last five events, took 62 minutes to dispose of her Russian opponent.

In the final match of the day, third seed Jennifer Capriati overcame a slow start to dispose of Italy's Silvia Farina Elia 7-5 6-1.

The Australian Open champion next meets Magdalena Maleeva of Bulgaria, who ousted a weary Daniela Hantuchova 6-2 7-5.

Hantuchova arrived in LA on Tuesday having made a draining 20-hour journey from the Canary Islands where she had led Slovakia to an historic Fed Cup title over Spain.

Not sharp

"A couple of days ago I was playing the Fed Cup and I didn't have much time to adjust to the surface and the time difference," said Hantuchova.

"I was just not sharp enough - I was not moving as well as I should and felt like I was always one step slower on the ball. I need to take some time off."

The Bulgarian who has discovered a rich vein of late season form reaching the finals of two of her last four events.

"To me it is great to beat her, I don't know if it's an upset, she's a top 10 player so maybe it is," said Maleeva, who has stood as high as number four in the world rankings.

Maleeva awaits the winner of the match between third-seeded American Jennifer Capriati and Italy's Silvia Farina Elia.


Results from the Home Depot Championships in Los Angeles:

(3) J Capriati (US) bt S Farina Elia (Ita) 7-5 6-1
(1) S Williams (US) bt A Smashnova (Isr) 6-2 6-2
(8) J Dokic (Yug) bt A Myskina (Rus) 6-3 6-4
M Maleeva (Bul) bt (7) D Hantuchova (Svk) 6-2 7-5

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