Venus Williams goes through in straight sets

DAVID LONG
Last updated 22:07 30/12/2013
Venus Williams
PETER MEECHAM/Fairfax NZ
SCRAPPY WIN: Venus Williams was not at her best, but prevailed in straight sets against Andrea Hlavackova.

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The tennis fans had to wait until 8.01pm to see Venus Williams in action tonight, but she didn't take long to make an impression.

Bad weather at the ASB Classic and a long three-set match earlier meant that the seven-time Grand Slam winner got on court an hour and a half later than scheduled, but she wowed the crowd with some incredible forehand winners and serves that came close to the 200kph mark.

Her 6-3 7-6 win over Andrea Hlavackova took one hour 38 minutes to achieve and while some of the tennis from her wasn't that great, particularly some wobbly backhands, there were times when she looked like the Williams of old.

However, there were often big gaps between those moments and too high an error count.

Hlavackova has a world ranking of 134 and needed a wildcard to make it into the main draw. The Czech certainly wasn't overawed by this experience, even though it was vastly different to her last match, which was in a lowly ITF tournament in Toronto.

The scoreline at the Classic was a fair reflection of the contest, yes Williams deserved to win, but she wasn't able to give her opponent a thrashing. Her next opponent, Yvonne Meusburger from Austria, is hardly one of the best players in the world and has a ranking of 49, but she can't afford to give the 30-year-old as many free points as she did against Hlavackova.

The first set was one that Williams looked like steam rolling through but there was some resistance from her opponent, who did manage to break the American's serve.

In the second set Hlavackova did manage to get a break up and at one point was serving for the set at 5-3, but Williams, who served five double faults in the set battled back to take it to a tiebreak.

From that point, there was only going to be one winner, with Williams cleaning up 7-1.

There were two seeds that took to the courts today and only one survived.

The biggest loser was the German Mona Barthel, but the fact that her match was put onto court four, rather than centre court pretty much summed up her importance at this event.

The seventh seed went down 6-4 6-3 to Meusburger in a match that lasted 66 minutes.

There was a better performance from fifth seed Jamie Hampton though. After a shaky start, she won 1-6 6-0 6-3 against Tamira Paszek to set up a second round clash against either Yanina Wickmayer from Belgium or the Czech qualifier Kristyna Pliskova.

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It was the American's first match since the US Open back in August and since then she's had an operation on her left ankle because of tendonitis.

"It was probably one of the worst sets of tennis I've played in a while," Hampton said afterwards. "But I was really nervous, I hadn't played a match since the US Open. So nerves, conditions, all of that put together."

Earlier on centre court the crowd witnessed potentially one of the next biggest stars in women's tennis, the Spaniard Garbine Muguruza, who defeated America's Christina McHale.

Muguruza only played half a season this year before needing an ankle operation.

Tall, gangly, but with a big serve, she has a similar game to Maria Sharapova and the 20-year-old could go on to have a great 2014 if she stays fit.

"I am just so happy I could play without pain and I felt really good on the court," she said."I almost forgot the score and I was lost a little bit," she said.

"I was nervous to play on centre court and everything, but in the end it was good.

"For me it was perfect, I was thinking that it was more possible that this would go bad rather than good. I'm so happy to win."

The day session finished with Ana Ivanovic making her first appearance on court and she won a thrilling doubles match, with her Belgian partner Kirsten Flipkens. Against Irina Falconi and Eva Hrdinova, they saved three match points to win the match 4-6 6-3 11-9.

RESULTS

Qualifying - final round

Kristyna Pliskova (CZE) def [1] Coco Vanderweghe (USA) 5-7 6-3 6-4

[2] Sharon Fichman (CAN) def Richel Hogenkamp (NED) 7-5 6-2

Anett Kontaveit (EST) def [6] Irina Falconi (USA) 6-3 7-6

Sachie Ishizu (JPN) def [8] Grace Min (USA) 6-2 6-4

Main draw  - first round singles

Garbine Muguruza (ESP) def Christina McHale (USA) 6-4 6-3

Yvonne Meusburger (AUT) def [7] Mona Barthel (GER) 6-4 6-3

Karolina Pliskova (CZE) def Paula Ormarchea (ARG) 7-6 6-1

[5] Jamie Hampton (USA) def [WC] Tamira Paszek (AUT) 1-6 6-0 6-3

Johanna Larsson (SWE) def Lourdes Dominguez Lino (ESP) 7-5 6-0

Kurumi Nara (JAP) def Alexandra Cadantu (ROM) 6-1 4-0 ret

Venus Williams (USA) def Andrea Hlavackova (CZE) 6-3 7-6

First round doubles

[WC] Kirsten Flipkens (BEL)/ Ana Ivanovic (SRB) def Irina Falconi (USA)/ Eva Hrdinova (CZE) 4-6 6-3 11-9

Chin-Wei Chan (TPE)/ Yi-Fan Xu (CHN) def Kristina Barrois (GER)/ Renata Voracova (CZE) 7-5 5-7 10-4

- Fairfax Media

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