Venus Williams wins singles, loses doubles with Serena at Italian Open

ESPNAPI_IMG_NO_ALTEXT_Value

ROME - Venus Williams won in singles, and then lost in doubles with younger sister Serena.

Venus beat CoCo Vandeweghe 6-4, 6-3 in the first round of the Italian Open on Monday. She and Serena later lost to Andreja Klepac and Katarina Srebotnik of Slovenia 6-1, 7-5.

It was the first time the sisters had played doubles together since the 2014 U.S. Open. They are preparing an attempt at a fourth Olympic gold medal in doubles in Rio de Janeiro. "We didn't play our best at the same time," Venus said. "That's not typical. Usually one of us is playing well. That helps the team a lot. Two of us are playing well, it usually goes our way." In men's play, Milos Raonic beat Italian wild-card entry Marco Cecchinato 6-4, 4-6, 6-4.

The Williams sisters, the winningest team in Olympic history, hope to shake off some rust as they prepare for the Games in Rio. They already have three golds in doubles, from the 2000, 2008 and 2012 Olympics. Each sister has also won gold in singles - Venus at the 2000 Sydney Games and Serena at the 2012 London games.

"Obviously we would love to play in the Olympics. I love playing with Venus. She's the best partner, and hopefully she feels the same about me. We make a great team," Serena said Sunday.

Serena said she has not been asked by any of the men to play mixed doubles in Rio yet, and is not really focusing on that possibility. "It's just one at a time. Hopefully I can be chosen for the doubles. That would be the best opportunity," she said. "And then after that we'll see." Top-ranked Serena also is hoping to get her singles game back on track after missing the Madrid Open with a fever.

"I wasn't feeling really good for the past several weeks and even the past few days," Serena said. "But right now I'm better. I will see how I'm doing when I step on the court for the first time, but overall I think I'm feeling a lot better."

And after her attempt at a calendar-year Grand Slam was derailed by Roberta Vinci at the U.S. Open in September, Serena could meet the Italian again in the semifinals in Rome.

A 21-time Grand Slam winner in singles, Serena hasn't won a title since a hard-court event in Cincinnati last August. She was beaten by Angelique Kerber in this year's Australian Open final then fell to Victoria Azarenka in the title-match in Indian Wells, California. In her only other appearance this year, Serena lost to Svetlana Kuznetsova in the fourth round of the Miami Open.

Given a first-round bye, Serena's opening opponent in Rome will be either 51st-ranked Anna-Lena Friedsam of Germany or 35th-ranked Anna Karolina Schmiedlova of Slovakia.

"It's always nice when Serena is in the draw. It's tougher, for sure, but the challenge, it's also bigger," said Kerber, who is seeded second. "It's good for the tournament. It's good for the fans that she is playing always in the big events."

Kerber said she plans on playing doubles at the Olympics with Andrea Petkovic. The Rio tennis program runs from Aug. 6-14 on hard courts.

Defending Rome champion Maria Sharapova is out awaiting a verdict in her doping case.

Williams is aiming for her fourth title at the Foro Italico -- the last big warmup for the French Open, which starts in two weeks.

Playing only one clay-court tournament before Paris isn't a concern.

"Every year I only play one tournament before Australia -- done OK there," Serena said, referring to her six Grand Slam singles titles in Melbourne. "So I'd like to think positive. I don't play anything thinking I'm going to lose. I always just play thinking I'm going to do the best I can. For me, that's winning."

Comments