DUBAI // Venus Williams made a solid start to her defence of the Dubai Tennis Championship last night, the powerful American overcoming the tenacious challenge of Germany's Sabine Lisicki 6-2, 6-3. Venus arrived here short of match practice having played in only the Australian Open - won by her sister Serena - this year. There was no sign of rustiness, however, as she quickly asserted her authority over an opponent who caught the eye last year by progressing to the quarter-finals of Wimbledon.
Lisicki boldly tried to out-hit Williams in a succession of fierce and swift rallies but came off worse in a first set which was over in only 26 minutes during which time the five-time Wimbledon champion regularly threatened to break through the 200kph barrier with her booming serves. "I've been practising those all of my career," she enthused afterwards. "It's always nice when some of them hit the target."
Lisicki, the world No 25 had her chances to extend the match in the second set but wasted three break points in the fifth game, only to drop her own serve in the next game. She refused to accept her fate then, however, and achieved a morale-boosting break of the Williams serve before being broken for the fourth time to allow Venus to serve out for her 66-minute success. Venus, flying the family flag here in the absence of her younger sibling, was happy with the first of what she hopes will be five victories this week. "As an athlete you are always looking for more," she said. "But I'm pretty pleased with how I played."
The third-seeded Williams would have expected to have met the 14th-seeded Italian Francesca Schiavone in tonight's third round. Instead, she will face Olga Govortsova, of Belarus, who ousted Shiavone 6-4, 6-4. @Email:firstname.lastname@example.org