Serena Williams showed that she has not shaken off the rust from her long injury absence, toiling to beat Germany's Andrea Petkovic 6-2, 3-6, 6-0 to reach the Italian Open quarter-finals in Rome yesterday.
The American had a sticky patch against unseeded Petkovic, after having taken her time to get going against Swiss Timea Bacsinszky on Tuesday in her first match since winning January's Australian Open. However, she has already shown in Rome an ability to raise her game when needed, an attribute she is likely to need at this month's French Open.
Williams looked comfortable in the first set, reading her opponent's powerful serve well and using Petkovic's power to crack some sizzling returns. She was swinging the racket with gusto at the start of the second set, with a gorgeous net volley and an emphatic smash the pick of her shots.
But Williams then began attacking the ball too early and was broken twice on the way to losing the second set. She regained her concentration, though, to win the decider to love.
Venus Williams beat Israel's Sahar Peer 6-3, 6-4.
Mikhail Youzhny eased into the third round of the BMW Open in Munich with a 6-3, 6-3 win over Andreas Beck. The Russian was in impressive form as he won 85 per cent of points on his first serve to march to victory in just under an hour. Youzhny will now meet Jan Hajek in the next round after the Czech defeated home favourite Benjamin Becker 6-4, 6-0.
Thomas Berdych also advanced as he came through a tight first set 7-5 against Spain's Pere Riba, before dominating the second set to take it 6-1.