S. Williams reins in easy victory

Sampras-Rusedski match is postponed until today

September 02, 2002|By Sandra McKee | Sandra McKee,SUN STAFF

NEW YORK -- At the end of a long, rainy afternoon, No. 1 seed Serena Williams strolled onto the Arthur Ashe Stadium Court in her baby-pink and black tennis outfit. She brightened the day for fans, who had hung around for 7 1/2 hours hoping to see some tennis.

Williams started strong, breaking Daja Bedanova in the first game and going on to win, 6-1, 6-1.

It was the only match that was finished before rain returned to the National Tennis Center.

Out on Louis Armstrong Stadium, No. 17 Pete Sampras and No. 33 Greg Rusedski were engaged in a competitive match. Rusedski got an early break, but behind the rousing cheers of a packed stadium, Sampras battled back.

Rusedski was serving for the set at 5-4 when Sampras fought off two set points and then got the break on his third break-point try.

But through that ninth game, it was apparent how tight this match would be. Rusedski moved along stoically, showing no emotion until a double fault on his second set point gave away his nervousness. Sampras rolled his eyes in disbelieving appreciation when one of his own backhands caught the outside line for a winner to start the game 0-15. And he sighed with relief when he hit another backhand winner to earn the second of his break-point chances.

Fans screamed his name in support and moaned, "Aw, Pete," when his shots went awry. It seemed fans and player alike were worried about Sampras' game and how this match would go.

But then the rain came and the match was suspended for the night.

There was no such tension in Williams' match. Though Bedanova upset Monica Seles in the fourth round here a year ago, she had no chance against Williams.

In fact, Williams made Bedanova, the 20th-ranked player in the world, look weak. The match was just 18 minutes old when Williams had the first set in hand, having won 92 percent of her first serves.

Years ago, Martina Navratilova would summarily dismiss her opponents, but in a more gentle fashion. Williams simply uses her power and strength to overwhelm and devastate them.

There was no way out for Bedanova. For Williams, it was 14 games, 35 winners in 41 minutes.

"When I play better players, I raise my game," said Williams. "I definitely feel better on my serve now than when I started the tournament, and once I serve well, my whole game goes up."

This, of course, is not good news for the rest of the draw. It is also not good news for her coming opponents that she sees improvements she can make.

"I'm making errors I don't usually make," she said. "It's scary."

For whom?

In the round of 16, it will be up to either No. 8 seed Justine Henin or No. 11 Daniela Hantuchova to cope with Williams. Hantuchova won the first set, 6-1, and was trailing in the second 2-1 before slipping on the wet baseline and calling for a trainer as play was suspended. Their match is scheduled to resume today.

Things did get a little confusing after Williams' match. It was announced before her post-match news conference that she would not take questions concerning the arrest Saturday of the man who has allegedly been stalking her.

Later in the news conference, Williams was asked if her father is right when he "says he thinks you might not be taking the threat seriously enough."

She answered: "Oh, no. I'm definitely taking it serious -- maybe too serious. I get so tense and so tight, so serious, that I can't relax."

Her response caused a stir. Was the reference to the stalker threat or something else? A WTA official followed up and got clarification.

"No ... I was referring to the threat of competition at this tournament," Williams said. "It's amazing how words can get twisted around."

Perhaps, but given the way she's playing, who would have guessed she was that worried about the competition?

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