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Serena Overcomes Slow Start in Toronto

August 17, 2005

TORONTO (AP) _ Serena Williams rallied from a rocky start to defeat Stephanie Cohen-Aloro of France 3-6, 6-4, 6-2 Tuesday night in the second round of the $1.3 million Rogers Cup tournament.

The fifth-seeded American, who hasn’t played since Wimbledon because of an injured left ankle, struggled with her mobility on the court. She often failed to get to balls well within her reach and appeared to be favoring her left leg off and on throughout the match.

With the U.S. Open just over two weeks away, Williams is using this event as a much-needed tuneup for the final Grand Slam of the season.

Cohen-Aloro, ranked 91st in the world, broke Williams to open the match, but the American broke back then managed hold serve for a 2-1 lead. Cohen-Aloro then broke Williams again to take a 4-3 lead before breaking Williams a third time to win the set.

At that point, the crowd tried to give the star player a boost as shouts of ``Go Serena!″ echoed throughout the Rexall Centre.

It must have worked.

Williams seemed to gain some confidence after going up a break in the second set, putting a little more pace on her serve and making fewer unforced errors.

Williams broke Cohen-Aloro to open the third set then broke her again to take a 3-0 lead and put the match out of Cohen-Aloro’s reach.

Earlier, Amelie Mauresmo acknowledged she was rusty, and Svetlana Kuznetsova appeared shaky.

Second-seeded Mauresmo, the defending champion, opened the tournament with a 6-2, 6-3 second-round win over Dally Randriantefy of Madagascar. Kuznetsova, the No. 3 seed from Russia, rallied from a horrible start to win 2-6, 7-5, 6-4 over Anabel Medina Garrigues of Spain.

Mauresmo, who received a bye in the first round, is playing her first tournament since she represented France in the Fed Cup in mid-July. She was happy with some elements of her game but said there are still some things she needs to work on before the U.S. Open later this month in New York.

``A few things worked pretty well today,″ she said. ``I’m thinking about the serve especially. I’m still looking for the right timing on the court.″

She looked solid in the first set, breaking her 53rd-ranked opponent twice. But Mauresmo struggled a bit in the second, having to fight off a couple break points in the first game and later missing a chance to serve out the match at love.

``Not so easy, especially the second set,″ the Frenchwoman said. ``I think the first set I was very effective on the game. And then the second set ... physically I had a some trouble to keep the rhythm and was making way too many errors to really finish it off the way I wanted to.″

Kuznetsova, the 2004 U.S. Open champion, committed several unforced errors against 35th-ranked Medina Garrigues. The sloppy match featured 12 service breaks and 27 total break chances.

Kuznetsova had a chance to serve out the match at 5-3 in the third but hit a volley wide before double-faulting on the next point. She then broke Medina Garrigues for the victory to advance to the third round.

She said having a bye in the first round could have contributed to her struggles in the first set.

``First matches are very dangerous because other players already played some and know the balls, the surface,″ she said. ``Maybe I was a little bit nervous in the first set and I couldn’t find my game. I was just playing all to her backhand. It was the best shot she has.″

Meanwhile, in first-round action, 11th-seeded Jelena Jankovic of Serbia and Montenegro was upset by Na Li of China 6-4, 5-7, 6-2; No. 12 Ana Ivanovic of Serbia and Montenegro defeated Tathiana Garbin of Italy 6-2, 7-6 (3), and No. 10 Nathalie Dechy of France downed Fabiola Zuluaga of Colombia 6-2, 6-4.

Also, No. 13 seed Daniela Hantuchova of Slovakia retired from her match against Alina Jidkova of Russia due to heat illness. The score was tied 4-4 in the third set when Hantuchova dropped out. Jidkova won the first set 6-4 while Hantuchova took the second 6-4.

Earlier in the day, No. 8 Mary Pierce of France withdrew from the tournament due to a strained right quadriceps. It’s the same injury that forced her to drop out of the JP Morgan Chase Open in Los Angeles last week.

``She wants to perform well at the Open,″ tournament director Stacey Allaster said. ``I understand why she doesn’t want to push if for this week.″

Pierce is the fifth top-20 player to withdraw from the event in the past week. On Sunday, top-seeded Russian Maria Sharapova backed out due to a strained chest muscle. American Venus Williams, ranked ninth in the world, withdrew last week due to the flu.

Mauresmo said it’s just a matter of playing some more matches to shake off the cobwebs that settled while she was on her break.

``I think for today it’s really something to put on the lack of competition for me,″ she said. ``With three or four matches under my belt, I don’t think it would have happened this way.″

Mauresmo decided to take the last month off to relax and practice so she would be refreshed for the U.S. Open and the remainder of the season. It was a much-needed break, she said.

``If we want, we can play 11 months a year,″ Mauresmo said. ``But I’m not capable of doing that. I almost didn’t stop during the first six months of the season. At some point, I had to rest a little bit and then get ready for the second part of the season.

``I’m not a machine.″

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