Originally created 01/23/04

Williams uses first week to work out kinks

MELBOURNE, Australia -- After six months on the sidelines, Venus Williams knows her game needs work.

And the experience that comes with winning four Grand Slam tournaments is helping gauge her progress.

So she wasn't too concerned when she made 23 unforced errors during a second-round match Thursday at the Australian Open against 17-year-old Vera Douchevina, a Russian ranked 112th.

Williams is well aware that all that counts is how her strokes feel - and the final score, which happened to be 6-4, 6-2 in her favor.

"I had a good match. I had a few more errors than what I wanted to, but really the whole goal was just to keep hitting out," Williams said. "I felt that I could have pulled back, of course, and cut my errors in half. But I really wanted to go after her."

She put some extra zing on her groundstrokes, and some missed the lines by a fraction.

She took something off first serves to work on placement - and not because she's concerned about the abdominal muscle problems that kept her out of action since July.

And Williams wanted to up the ante on her second serve, to experiment with handling some pressure.

Second-ranked Kim Clijsters didn't hold anything back in a 6-0, 6-0 win over Maria Elena Camerin, a 21-year-old Italian ranked 92nd and making her first appearance at the Australian Open.

Clijsters is trying to win her first major title.

The reigning men's Grand Slam champions all reached the third round in straight sets. Wimbledon champion Roger Federer eliminated U.S. qualifier Jeff Morrison 6-2, 6-3, 6-4, while French Open winner Juan Carlos Ferrero ignored pain in his left wrist and beat Filippo Volandri 6-4, 7-6 (3), 7-5.

U.S. Open champion Andy Roddick and defending Australian Open champion Andre Agassi reached the third round earlier.

Roddick faces friend and potential Davis Cup teammate Taylor Dent, while Agassi brings a 4-5 career record against 1999 Australian Open finalist Thomas Enqvist into their third-round match.

Other winners Thursday included Australians Mark Philippoussis and Lleyton Hewitt, No. 8 David Nalbandian, No. 11 Tim Henman, No. 14 Jiri Novak and No. 26 Albert Costa.

On the women's side, the top half of the draw is in action Friday, with No. 1 Justine Henin-Hardenne facing Svetlana Kuznetsova, No. 4 Amelie Mauresmo against Anabel Medina Garrigues and 2000 Australian Open champion Lindsay Davenport against Laura Granville.

Clijsters, still conscious of an ankle injury that sidelined her for two weeks coming into Melbourne, rattled off winners with regular precision. The longest game was the last, when Camerin saved four match points in a desperate, last-ditch effort to avoid being blanked.

"I felt very sharp and I felt like I was really doing with the ball whatever I wanted to do with it," Clijsters said. "It doesn't happen every day that you can have matches like this."

Williams isn't seeking perfection in the first week.

As players like to point out, majors are never won in the first week - but can be lost in the first week. In other words, only do as much as you need to early on.

Williams made only one glaring mistake against Douchevina: a double-fault at break point in the second game of the second set. That was one of her five double-faults.

"I'm not really going for speed really, just placement and force. Maybe I'll concentrate on that in some of my next matches," she said. "My second serve also is faster than normal and is kicking much higher."

Williams' next opponent is Lisa Raymond, a 6-3, 6-4 winner over Anca Barna.


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