Friday, March 11, 2011

Americans start well in Indian Wells

The highest-ranked American not named Williams was in top form on Day 1 of the BNP Paribas Open on Wednesday, as Bethanie Mattek-Sands beat Vera Dushevina at the $4.5-million stop.

Mattek-Sands, ranked No.43, had won all three of her previous meetings with Dushevina in straight sets and that continued, as she raced out to 5-1 in the first set and 4-1 in the second set, holding off the No.51-ranked Russian, 6-4 6-4.

Mattek-Sands has never passed the second round here and has No.10 seed Shahar Peer next. Peer has won all four of their previous meetings.

"I'm going to do the best I can," said Mattek-Sands, who has been ill the last few weeks and struggled on court during her first round match. "You've just gotta fight through it. That's what I did today. I was just trying to keep the points short and stay aggressive, which is my style anyway, so it worked out for me."

The other Americans in action had mixed results, with Coco Vandeweghe winning but Vania King, Alison Riske and Lauren Davis all falling. King was up 6-2 2-0 on Argentina's Gisela Dulko before the Latin American No.1 rallied to win, 2-6 6-3 6-2. At night, Melanie Oudin beat Elena Vesnina, 7-6(2) 6-2.

Vandeweghe spoke about her recent improvements after a 4-6 6-3 6-4 win over Edina Gallovits-Hall. "My coach told me I served at 33%, which is a crazy number for me on the serve, but to pull it out is an accomplishment in itself. I've been taking training very seriously off the court, which is really important. Many people were telling me I was out of shape. Maybe I wasn't eating right or doing certain things but now I have a trainer and I've been feeling pretty quick."

Oudin was also pleased with her win. "Elena killed me the last few times we played, so this was a really good win for me tonight. I stayed in the points well today. I mixed in some slices and drops shots and overall I played pretty well. In all of these matches I'm getting so close, it's all about pulling out the win."

The best player of all time from the other side of the world, Kimiko Date-Krumm, was also among the winners, beating Yaroslava Shvedova, 6-4 7-5.

"This was a big victory for me, because since January I've lost first round at every tournament except Pattaya," Date-Krumm said. "All of those matches were very close but I just couldn't finish them. Today was also close, especially in the second set. It was very meaningful winning this match today."

This is Date-Krumm's fourth time playing at Indian Wells, her first coming all of 20 years ago with a second round showing in 1991. She was a semifinalist in 1996 and reached the second round again last year. "This is a very nice tournament," the Japanese veteran said. "Nice restaurants, shopping and weather - the air is a little dry but I always enjoy coming back here."

Only three players from Asia have ever been in the world's Top 10 before: Japan's Date-Krumm (career-high No.4), China's Li Na (career-high and current ranking No.7) and another Japanese, Ai Sugiyama (career-high No.8). Having lost her opening matches at Indian Wells and Miami last year, Li could better her ranking over the next four weeks with some deep Premier-level runs.

Next up for Date-Krumm is No.19 seed Ana Ivanovic. Ivanovic won their only previous meeting, in a long three-setter at Bali last November.

Other winners were Lucie Safarova, Anastasija Sevastova, Sara Errani, Timea Bacsinszky, Alla Kudryavtseva, Sybille Bammer, qualifiers Monica Niculescu and Alizé Cornet and wildcard Sania Mirza.

Safarova's 7-6(9) 6-7(5) 6-0 win over Kristina Barrois broke the record for most aces from a player in a match this year, as the Czech fired 18 of them.

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