Venus back in winning form

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PARIS - As rain delayed the start of what would be Venus Williams' first victory in a Grand Slam match in 11 months, video screens atop Court Philippe Chatrier showed footage from her 2002 French Open final against younger sister Serena.

No. 26 seed Venus Williams beat Alize Cornet of France 6-4, 6-3 Monday to reach the second round of the French Open. She hasn't played much the past year because of a wrist injury.  Associated Press
Associated Press
No. 26 seed Venus Williams beat Alize Cornet of France 6-4, 6-3 Monday to reach the second round of the French Open. She hasn't played much the past year because of a wrist injury.

Ah, how things have changed. Back then, Williams played Williams for the championship at major after major. These days, because of injuries and other issues, it's an accomplishment when both manage to show up.

So Venus Williams simply was happy to be there Monday at this French Open, and she played that way at times, too.

Eventually, she asserted herself enough against French wild-card entry Alize Cornet for a 6-4, 6-3 win that put the Williams siblings in the second round at a Grand Slam for the first time since 2005.

"The most important thing is that I'm on tour, and as long as I'm on tour, I feel like really good things can happen to me," said Venus, who played only two matches from July 2006 to February 2007 because of a left wrist injury. "So it's just important for me to stay in the tournaments and be healthy."

Once ranked No. 1, and an owner of five major titles, she is seeded only 26th in Paris. Her next opponent, 80th-ranked Ashley Harkleroad of the United States, provided a succinct assessment of where Venus stands.

"She's not dominating like she used to," Harkleroad said, "so it's better to play her now than then, right?"

Because of showers, only seven of 65 scheduled matches were finished Monday - the same number completed Sunday, when 2002 champion Serena advanced.

She showed up at her big sister's match wearing sunglasses and a scarf wrapped around her head. They haven't entered the same major since the 2006 Australian Open, and, as Venus put it: "There's no one to practice with like Serena Williams."

Venus' match began three hours late, and rain returned just as she won, interrupting play elsewhere for another hour. Matches later resumed for about an hour before play was suspended for the day.

Those left in limbo overnight included top-ranked Roger Federer, leading Michael Russell of the United States 6-4, 4-1 when play was halted, and 2003 French Open champion Juan Carlos Ferrero, down 4-3 in the first set but about to serve against Amer Delic of the United States.

Fourth-seeded Nikolay Davydenko, a semifinalist at the 2005 French Open and last year's U.S. Open, was the only man who advanced, closing out his 6-3, 6-1, 6-1 win over Stefano Galvani of Italy as showers fell. At 4-1 in the third set, Davydenko said, he was thinking, "Break, break, break," and "Play faster."

First up on Court 1, he was grateful for the rain delay, because he got stuck in traffic and didn't make it to Roland Garros until about five minutes before the scheduled 11 a.m. start.

"I was nervous," he said. "You can disqualify, you know."

The first seeded player to exit the tournament was No. 31 Severine Bremond of France, a 6-3, 6-3 loser to Michaella Krajicek of the Netherlands, the younger sister of 1996 Wimbledon champion Richard Krajicek.

Other women's winners: No. 27 Samantha Stosur of Australia, who beat Jamea Jackson of the United States 6-1, 6-2; No. 16 Li Na of China; No. 19 Tathiana Garbin of Italy; and the unseeded Harkleroad, who defeated Aleksandra Wozniak of Canada 6-2, 7-6 (1).

Harkleroad is 4-0 in the first round at the French Open but has never been past the third.

"Golly, one round. It's great," she said. "But it would be nice to win more than just a round."

To do that, she'll need to get past Venus, who won both of their previous encounters 6-2, 6-1.


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