Originally created 05/16/02

Serena Williams advances at Italian Open



ROME -- Fourth-seeded Serena Williams beat Rita Grande of Italy 6-0, 6-3 Wednesday to advance to the third round of the Italian Open.

After facing little resistance in the opening set, Williams lost her serve in the first game of the second set. She broke in the next game and won five of the next seven games against Grande, who was urged on by the partisan crowd.

"It seems like when I go places, I always tend to play their countrymen, so I'm used to it now," Williams said.

Top-seeded Venus Williams, who withdrew minutes before her match Tuesday night against Anna Kournikova because of an injured right wrist, was seen wearing a brace on her injured wrist while watching her sister's match.

In another second-round match, defending champion Jelena Dokic beat Anna Smashnova 6-3, 3-6, 6-1.

"It was my first win here, and to come back as a defending champion is not easy," the sixth-seeded Dokic said. "I could have played better, but I'm glad I won."

Third-seeded Kim Clijsters traded breaks with Elena Likhovtseva at the outset and advanced with a 6-3, 6-2 victory.

In other matches, fifth-seeded Justine Henin, coming off a victory at the German Open, beat Francesca Schiavone 7-6 (5), 6-2; seventh-seeded Amelie Mauresmo defeated Nathalie Dechy 6-1, 7-5; Mary Pierce beat 13th-seeded Patty Schnyder 6-3, 1-6, 6-2; Sandrine Testud defeated Julia Vakulenko 6-1, 6-1; and 16th-seeded Tatiana Panova advanced when Henrieta Nagyova retired with a thigh injury while trailing 6-0, 5-2.

Silvia Farina Elia, Italy's top player and the tournament's No. 9 seed, beat Barbara Schett 6-2, 6-4 in the featured night match.

Venus Williams, who appeared on court and apologized to the Foro Italico crowd, said she hurt herself picking up a bag at practice this week.

"Hopefully, it won't be very serious," she said. "Hopefully, I'll be able to practice soon. I'm just going to take some time off and maybe finally see something in Rome."

Kournikova, yet to beat Williams in seven matches, defeated Lilia Osterloh 6-1, 4-6, 6-1 to reach the third round.

"Injuries happen," Kournikova said. "I just wish that we would know a little bit earlier."

Williams, entering her seventh straight week at No. 1, also had been entered in the doubles draw at the clay-court event.

Organizers said the injury was certified by the WTA.

Tournament officials released a statement Wednesday saying Williams had not requested a visit with the WTA trainer or the tournament doctor.

"This morning in practice it hurt and then during the day it got worse with more swelling," Williams said. "I could have played with the pain, but it did not seem correct."

The injury to Williams comes with the French Open less than two weeks away.

"It really makes me somewhat nervous about the French, that I won't be able to play this week," Williams said.

Last year, Williams pulled out of a semifinal against sister Serena in similar fashion at a tournament in Indian Wells, Calif.

Williams said she did not feel she should have announced her injury sooner.

"I did notice it at the time, but then I was OK," she said. "But right now, the same symptoms and same pain I had then is the same that I'm having now."

Dokic criticized Williams for dropping out of the tournament.

"It was really bad to be happening at such a good tournament," Dokic said. "It's so tough to so many players here. And for her to pull out of the top half there just makes things so much different."

On Tuesday, Jennifer Capriati won her first match in Rome in nine years, routing Maja Matevzic 6-2, 6-1. Capriati lost her serve at love in the opening game, then pounded forehand winners the rest of the way.