Serena Williams rolls, Li Na falls at Open
NEW YORK -- Serena Williams' first U.S. Open singles match since her 2009 foot-fault tirade came and went, quickly and quietly.
Williams began her bid for a fourth championship at Flushing Meadows and 14th Grand Slam title overall with a 6-1, 6-1 victory over 54th-ranked Bojana Jovanovski of Serbia on Tuesday night.
The 29-year-old American was greeted warmly by the Arthur Ashe Stadium crowd as she walked out to play, a far cry from the ugly scene at the same court two years ago, when Williams produced a profanity-laced, racket-brandishing tirade at a line judge after a foot-fault call at the end of her semifinal loss to eventual champion Kim Clijsters.
Williams insisted Tuesday she wasn't thinking about that infamous outburst at all.
"If anything, I thought, 'Wow, I'm back. I haven't played in a long time.' I'm telling you: Out of sight, out of mind for me," she said. "You guys should try it."
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Day 2 of the tournament included a second consecutive first-round departure from the U.S. Open by the sixth-seeded French Open champion Li Na. Since becoming China's first major singles champion at Paris in June, Li has gone 5-6, exiting in the second round at Wimbledon, then losing 6-2, 7-5 to 53rd-ranked Simona Halep of Romania on Tuesday.
"Terrible feeling," Li said. "I really want to do well after Roland Garros. But, I mean, it's not easy to do. Always easy to say, 'I want to do, I would like to do,' but always lose early. Now I even lose all the confidence on the court. I was feeling, 'Oh, tennis just too tough for me."'
It's the first time in 40 years that none of the women's champions at a season's first three Grand Slam tournaments reached the second round at the U.S. Open. Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova lost her first-round match Monday, while Australian Open champion Kim Clijsters withdrew because of a stomach muscle injury.
Afterward, Wozniacki was asked about criticisms that she lacks a big-time shot.
"They can say what they want," said Wozniacki, who is dating U.S. Open golf champion Rory McIlroy. "I'm the type of player I am."
Williams missed last year's U.S. Open because of surgery on her right foot after cutting it on glass at a restaurant in Germany in July. That was part of a series of health scares -- including clots in her lungs, and a gathering of blood under the skin of her stomach -- that sidelined her for nearly a year.
Back in 2009, Williams drew an immediate $10,000 fine from the U.S. Tennis Association and later was hit with a record $82,500 fine from the Grand Slam administrator. She also faced a "probationary period" at Grand Slam tournaments in 2010 and 2011, and was told she could be suspended from the U.S. Open if she had another "major offense."
There was no such fuss Tuesday.
Williams made only 10 unforced errors, compiled 22 winners, never faced a break point, and needed only 56 minutes to wrap things up.
Still, she wasn't completely satisfied.
"I mean, I could've played more aggressive," Williams said. "I kind of was just out there, getting balls back."
The U.S. Open is the sixth tournament of her comeback. She won hard-court tuneup events at Stanford and Toronto in August, her first consecutive titles since 2008.
"I'm so happy to be here. I didn't think I would make it," said the 28th-seeded Williams, whose ranking fell to 175th last month because of all that time off. "Just feel so blessed. I'm so happy."
For years, the U.S. Open would start each night session with a women's match, followed by a men's match, but organizers have started occasionally flipping that order.
Williams would prefer if the tournament stuck to its old policy.
"The guys should play second. They're guys. We're ladies," she said. "They should totally play second all the time. Ladies -- you open the door for ladies. (The men) should go second. It's ridiculous."
For Wozniacki, it was a drama-free afternoon in Arthur Ashe Stadium that left the most interesting stuff for the post-match interview.
How were things going with McIlroy, golf's reigning U.S. Open champion whom she started dating this summer?
"You know, he has something I'm looking for and I have something he's looking for," she said. "He wants to be No. 1. So it's good to have something on each other."
Does the No. 1 ranking, when it's not accompanied by a major title, feel like a burden or an honor?
"I'm trying to stay up there as long as possible, and it doesn't really matter what people are saying," she said. "No one can ever take that away from me."
And why not end the suspense and tell us who that new coach of yours is?
"Yeah, well, I have to respect him, as well," she said. "So if he wants to be in the background and not have his name out, I have to respect that."
Former French Open champion Ana Ivanovic won her first-round match at the U.S. Open on Tuesday, defeating Ksenia Pervak of Russia 6-4, 6-2.
The 16th-seeded Ivanovic, moving her way back up the rankings after falling into the 60s last year, took a 5-2 lead in the second set but laid down on the sideline and required a visit from the trainer during the changeover.
She returned to the court and broke Pervak's serve to close out the match and avoid going out in the first round of a grand slam for the third time this year.
Part of her resurgence could have to do with a reconciliation with golfer Adam Scott, who was in the stands for the opening-round match. At the beginning of the year, Ivanovic told the (Sydney) Sunday Telegraph that her on-court performance had suffered in the aftermath of a breakup with Scott.
Asked on Tuesday if Scott's presence in the stands meant they were back together, she said, "It was really nice to see him there. Now we're just happy, and that's all that matters."
Every bit as much on her mind, however, was her grandfather.
Ivanovic choked back tears while describing a very close relationship with Milovan Ivanovic but said she had no regrets about playing so soon after his death; she believes he would want her to be out on the court competing.
"In the last couple of years, I've had to deal with many different things, many different issues out there," she said. "I've just tried to put it aside and try to focus on hitting the ball. There are moments where things creep in a little more. But it's important to be in the moment and think more tactically and take your mind off that."
Two-time Grand Slam champion Svetlana Kuznetsova beat Sara Errani 7-5, 6-1. Other winners included No. 4 Victoria Azarenka, No. 7 Francesca Schiavone, No. 10 Andrea Petkovic, No. 11 Jelena Jankovic and three young Americans: Sloane Stephens, CoCo Vandeweghe and Vania King.
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.
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