Venus Williams advances to Bank of the West quarterfinals

July 28, 2005 02:00 AM
By Janie McCauley

_ Venus Williams has taken 11 flights since her thrilling Wimbledon title 3 weeks ago, making media appearances all over the country and launching a new reality show with sister Serena.

So it's no wonder she barely had time to prepare for her latest event. She crammed in a couple practice sessions early in the week and called that good enough.

Williams still had a fairly easy time in her first tournament match since leaving the All England Club, defeating Sania Mirza 6-3, 6-2 on Wednesday night to advance to the quarterfinals of the Bank of the West Classic.

"Where did my vacation go?'' Williams said, chuckling. "It's been really tough. I definitely would have liked to have a break. ... I'm always ready, ready for whatever comes at me. I feel like I've seen it all at this point.''

Williams didn't show the same dominant form that helped her win Wimbledon earlier this month for her first major championship in four years, but she rode her powerful serve for easy points against the 18-year-old Mirza.

Williams hit three straight aces in her first service game of the second set: at 109 mph, 115 and 106, then pounded a 116-mph first serve to finish it. She hit two more aces in her next service game, both clocked at 108, and a 121-mph first serve to end that game.

"My serve definitely picked up,'' said Williams, who did participate in Fed Cup in Moscow after Wimbledon. "I played a lot better than I expected, but I also didn't feel I played that well.''

Williams, who improved to 30-8 this year, will play Friday against seventh-seeded Jelena Jankovic, a 6-0, 6-3 winner over Amy Frazier earlier Wednesday.

The second-seeded Williams won this event in 2000 and 2002, and lost to top-seeded Lindsay Davenport in last year's final. Williams beat Davenport in the historic Wimbledon final 4-6, 7-6 (4), 9-7 that lasted 2 hours, 45 minutes, and everyone here is anticipating a rematch in Sunday's final.

Williams also found time to get a new hairdo. She added braids after wanting to try them for two years.

Davenport plays her first match Thursday against Anna-Lena Groenefeld of Germany.

The feisty Mirza, from India, was a lucky loser entry into the draw after Chanda Rubin withdrew because of inflammation in her left ankle. Mirza won her first-round match and had a large contingent from the Bay Area's Indian community cheering for her among the sellout crowd of 4,353.

"Thankfully, there are Indians everywhere I go,'' she said. "I came back inside and people said, 'Oh, it looked like you were the local girl.'''

But Mirza had her serve broken four times and made too many mistakes to stay close against Williams, ranked ninth in the world.

"I had a lot of chances and I should have capitalized on them a bit more,'' said Mirza, who is nursing a pulled stomach muscle. "I think it was much closer than the score suggests. The second set, I would hit a winner the first point and she would hit three aces. I guess that's why she won Wimbledon, because she plays better on the important points.''

Earlier Wednesday, Patty Schnyder advanced to the quarterfinals, rallying in the second set to beat 30th-ranked Marion Bartoli 6-4, 7-5. Sixth-seeded Nathalie Dechy downed Lisa Raymond 3-6, 6-3, 6-4.

Schnyder had 11 aces and won 70 percent of her first serves. She overcame a 5-2 deficit against Bartoli, who was treated for left knee tendinitis between sets.

Bartoli won the first three games of the second set before fading.

"My serve was on,'' Schnyder said. "She struggled a bit with her reach, but I am happy with the way I played.''

In the 10th game, Schnyder ran down a shot in the corner and dropped it over the net en route to a 5-all tie. She finished off Bartoli with an ace.

Bartoli started the season 15-7, but has lost eight of her last 12 matches.

The third-seeded Schnyder, who reached the semifinals of the Australian Open, has won four of her nine matches against top-10 players this season. In May, she beat Maria Sharapova in Rome before losing to Amelie Mauresmo in a three-set final.