Venus making net gain

KEY BISCAYNE, Fla. -- Venus Williams thought her game overall was better Monday night. But more important, so did her dad, Richard Williams.

"He was happy in today's match," said Venus, after defeating Francesca Schiavone 6-1, 6-3 to advance to the quarterfinals. "He said, 'Is that Venus? Is that Venus? I don't know that Venus.'

"So that was nice," she said a big smile spreading across her face.

Compared to her third-round match, she reduced her unforced errors from 21 to 15, although her winners also went down, from 24 to 17. First serve percentage was only about 55 percent.

"I would have liked to have a higher first serve percentage, but my second serve was effective," Venus said. "I feel like whenever I needed to really put pressure with my serve, I would do that."

At the net, however, she shined, coming in more often than she usually does and winning 14 of 18 points at the net.

"I got a lot of short balls today, so I came in on them," Venus said. "I felt good at the net. I've been practicing my volleys."

Venus, who has agreed to play Fed Cup in the United State's next round in Slovakia, is often encouraged to serve-and-volley during those weeks she spends with Zina Garrison and Billie Jean King.

"I always get messages from (King), e-mails," Venus said. "She's so sweet. She's such a role model. Such a great coach. Of course, she's always saying, 'Get in there, get in there.'

"I'm hearing the same thing, of course, from my dad."

Next up for Venus is No. 5-seeded Elena Dementieva. After winning the silver medal at the Sydney Olympics (Venus took gold), Dementieva struggled, though she's now eighth in the world, her highest career ranking.

"I'm ready," Venus said, explaining that she needs to take risks to succeed.

"Any time I try to get involved in playing safe, that's foreign for me," Venus said. "That's not my game, that's not my style. ... it's about taking risks in a controlled manner."

Venus doesn't play until Wednesday, which gives her something that's been rare here in this rainy tournament: a day off.

"I kind of want to go to the shops," Venus said. "I haven't had a chance to. I've had a match every day or some kind of rain or some kind of nonsense. So I'm working on it, spreading my wings and getting to the shops."

What little free time she's had, Venus said she's been playing her guitar.

"My teacher gives me songs, and then I end up making up my own things, too," she said.

Of course, it's not easy to fit in lessons for something other than tennis, so she often has to have a crash course. Is she good enough to play in public?

"Good enough, yes," she said, laughing. "Confident, no."

At least that's not a problem for her on the courts.

Cynthia Faulkner is the tennis editor at ESPN.com.