TOYOTA PRINCESS CUP

Serena blasts out of blocks

by Rob Smaal

The Serena Williams traveling tennis clinic rolled into Tokyo on Wednesday and, in this land of sushi, it was doughnuts that Williams had on her mind.

“Up 3-0, I thought maybe I could go for 6-0, 6-0,” said Williams, the reigning French Open, Wimbledon and U.S. Open champion. “I’ve never had one in my career . . . it’s eluded me so far.”

Well, not really. Back in 1998 Williams pitched a shutout against Larisa Neiland.

Still, Williams barely broke a sweat as she methodically dispatched Austrian Patricia Wartusch 6-0, 6-2 in the second round of the Toyota Princess Cup at Ariake Colosseum on a bright, sunny afternoon.

“It’s always tough to play that first match after a Grand Slam win,” said world No. 1 Williams, who had a first-round bye and was coming off a victory over sister Venus two weeks ago in the U.S. Open final. “Talking to (new doubles partner) Martina Navratilova, she told me the same thing; that it’s tough to get motivated for your next match after winning a Grand Slam.”

Well, the way things have been going, she better get used to it. And if Williams was having a tough time out there Wednesday, it certainly didn’t show. The 20-year-old American dominated every facet of the match against her 74th-ranked opponent. In fact, things were looking so bleak for Wartusch that when she finally won her first game — with an ace in the third game of the second set — she raised her arms in mock triumph as she stood at the baseline.

But, other than that, it was all Williams as she mixed her trademark booming serve and power game with some deft touch play at the net, dispelling the myth that she is a one-dimensional player.

Williams next faces the winner of today’s Nicole Pratt-Ai Sugiyama match. Australia’s Pratt advanced with a 6-3, 7-6 (7-4) win Wednesday over Spaniard Gala Leon Garcia.

Williams’ next opponent, however, should not count on a dip in form from the 2000 Princess Cup winner.

“Once I get to the quarters, I seem to get in a groove,” warned Serena, who has already bagged six WTA Tour titles this year, after completing her demolition of Wartusch in just under an hour.

In other play Wednesday, Russia’s Elena Likhovtseva eliminated former world No. 1 Arantxa Sanchez-Vicario of Spain 6-2, 6-7 (1-7), 6-4; Tamarine Tanasugarn of Thailand topped Italy’s Adriana Serra Zanetti 6-2, 7-6 (7-3); and Tatiana Panova of Russia ousted Henrieta Nagyova 6-2, 1-6, 6-4.

Other singles winners Wednesday were Lina Krasnoroutskaya and Svetlana Kuznetsova of Russia, Argentina’s Clarisa Fernandez and Spain’s Cristina Torrens Valero.

The WTA event wraps up Sunday afternoon with the winner pocketing $93,000.