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Page last updated at 17:22 GMT, Monday, 4 May 2009 18:22 UK

Venus battles through Rome opener

Venus Williams
Venus was playing her first match of the season on European clay

Venus Williams opened her European clay-court season with a scrappy 6-2 4-6 6-2 win over Lucie Safarova in the second round of the Italian Open.

The fourth seed eased through the first set but 22-year-old Safarova broke in the third game of the second set and held serve easily to level the match.

The Czech had four more break points in the decider before Venus, who had a first-round bye, broke at 2-1.

"I just want to hit balls, so it's not too bad to go three sets," said Venus.

"She played some good shots. She played strong and she is a talented player, so I have to give her credit.

"We both played aggressive. She's just going for every shot, for the lines."


Venus has been drawn in the opposite half of the draw to sister Serena. They are among the top eight seeds who received byes into the second round.

Second seed Serena will open her campaign against Switzerland's Patty Schnyder on Tuesday.

It will be her first match since being knocked off the top of the world rankings by Russian Dinara Safina.

"We all know who the real number one is," Serena told a news conference on Monday. "Quite frankly, I'm the best in the world."

Safina has never won a Grand Slam title - and was easily beaten by Serena in this year's Australian Open final - while the American has won 10.

Serena said her toughest opponent was herself, explaining: "I always beat myself."

In other matches on Monday, sixth seed Victoria Azarenka won the first set against Ayumi Morita 6-0 before the Japanese player retired with a left thigh strain.

Ninth seed Caroline Wozniacki of Denmark defeated Agnes Szavay 6-3 6-2, while fellow seeds Agnieszka Radwanska, Flavia Pennetta, Alize Cornet and Jie Zheng also went through.

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see also
Kuznetsova upsets Safina in final
03 May 09 |  Tennis
Keothavong makes early Rome exit
03 May 09 |  Tennis

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