By Paul Levine SportsTicker Contributing Writer
CARSON, California (Ticker) - After attending the Hollywood premiere of "Catwoman" on Monday, Venus Williams wasted little time pouncing all over her opponent. Second-seeded Williams made quick work of wild card Ashley Harkleroad with a 6-2, 6-1 victory on Tuesday night to advance to the third round at the $585,000 JP Morgan Chase Open.
Fresh off a stirring three-set loss to Lindsay Davenport in the final at Stanford on Sunday, Williams kept the 19-year-old American pinned to the baseline and off-balance for most of the 47-minute blowout. Williams, who improved to 31-6 in 2004, credited a high-powered assault.
"I've been working on hitting the ball harder," said Williams, ranked 13th in the world. "If I can hit hard and overpower someone that's very intimidating."
Williams fell behind 2-0 in the opener after dropping her serve in the first game. But the four-time Grand Slam champion recovered and to reeled off 12 of the final 13 games in front of supportive Los Angeles crowd, where the Williams sisters spent their early years before leaving 11 years ago.
"I had a real slow start, I was actually feeling tired," Williams admitted. "But somehow I got a second wind after that second game. She's a good player. She plays real consistent, she moves well, she's solid. So it's important to go out there and force the issue, which I did today."
Harkleroad was playing her fourth tournament since being sidelined for four months with a torn right elbow ligament. But she had few weapons to combat searing groundstrokes and scorching serves en route to her second loss in as many career meetings with Williams.
"It's very difficult to get a rhythm against someone like that because she either misses 10 feet long or she makes right on the line," said Harkleroad, ranked No. 115. "I'm the type of player who defends a lot, so it's difficult to play her. She's unpredictable, she's hit or miss."
Williams joined a pair of Russians in the third round as fourth-seeded Elena Dementieva trounced American Lila Osterloh, 6-4, 6-2 in the day session. In the night session at Home Depot Center, seventh-seeded Nadia Petrova bounced American wild card Jessica Kirkland, 6-2, 6-3. Dementieva was treated to a hero's welcome early this summer but got back to the business at hand. She displayed the form that powered her through the French Open before falling to Anastasia Myskina in the first All-Russian Grand Slam final.
"It's difficult for me to play here because I just came from home and I need some time to adjust with the time difference and with these hot conditions," said Dementieva, who spent time after Wimbledon practicing in Moscow for the upcoming Olympics. "I feel OK but I need a couple of days to feel my best here." After the outstanding efforts at Roland Garros, Dementieva and Myskina were treated to a celebration when they returned home. "When we came home after the French Open with Anastasia, it was a crazy time for us because everybody congratulated us," Dementieva said. "We had a very tough week. We were doing a lot of press, everybody on the street recognized us and were very happy for us. It was a great moment for Russia and Russian tennis."
Earlier, Russian compatriot Elena Likhotseva beat Peruvian qualifier Vilmarie Castellvi, 6-3, 6-2, in the opening round. The Russians, however, failed to make it a perfect 4-for-4 in the day program when No. 15 Amy Frazier of the United States crushed Alina Jidkova, 6-2, 6-2, in 52 minutes. "I felt really good today and I don't think Alina played as well as she can," Frazier said. "I was so happy with the way I played. I felt like I served and returned well."
In other day matches involving seeds, No. 9 Patty Schnyder of Switzerland edged Lindsay Lee-Waters, 6-1, 5-7, 6-4; No. 10 Anna Smashnova-Pistolesi of Israel routed Spain's Virginia Ruano-Pascual, 6-2, 6-1; and No. 16 Meghann Shaughnessy of the U.S. fell to Jelena Jankovic of Serbia & Montenegro, 7-6 (7-2), 2-6, 7-5.