Alexa

Venus, Serena Williams honor pioneer Gibson with 1st-round wins at U.S. Open

Venus, Serena Williams honor pioneer Gibson with 1st-round wins at U.S. Open

Venus and Serena Williams marked the 50th anniversary celebrations of Althea Gibson's first U.S National Championship title for a black tennis player with fitting victories on Monday.
Venus Williams beat Kira Nagy of Hungary 6-2, 6-1 in the first round of the U.S. Open _ and hit a Grand Slam-record 129 mph (208 kph) serve in the process. Serena Williams topped out at 126 mph (203 kph) and had only slightly more trouble getting past Angelique Kerber of Germany 6-3, 7-5.
"I have all the opportunities today because of people like Althea," Venus Williams said. "Just trying to follow in her footsteps."
The siblings narrated a video that opened the tribute to Gibson, who was the first black man or woman to enter (in 1950) and to win (in 1957) Wimbledon and the tournament that's now called the U.S. Open.
In 1999, Serena Williams became the first black woman since Gibson to win the U.S. Open. The next year, Venus Williams became the first black woman since Gibson to win Wimbledon.
Aretha Franklin sang, actress Phylicia Rashad emceed, and Rachel Robinson _ widow of Major League Baseball barrier-breaker Jackie Robinson _ was in the audience as the late Gibson was inducted into the U.S. Open Court of Champions.
"It was definitely a tough act to follow. ... It was really moving," said Venus Williams, limited by wrist and knee problems to only one tournament since winning Wimbledon in early July.
"It's like, 'OK. Williams can't lose tonight. That's not part of the plan. It's supposed to be an all-American win tonight.' I was definitely thinking that."
She built a 24-6 edge in winners and never was threatened. Serena Williams, playing for the first time since hurting her left thumb at Wimbledon, scattered 26 unforced errors and was broken the first time she served for the match.
"I didn't play well at all," the younger Williams said. "At all."
She also had a bit of a wardrobe malfunction, ripping off a pink bow from the front of her black dress while seated in a sideline chair. Venus Williams, meanwhile, showed off her new low-priced clothing line with a green pleated halter dress.
It also was a good day for the top seeds. Roger Federer and Justine Henin advanced in straight sets, as did No. 4 Nikolay Davydenko, who then talked about the gambling probe surrounding a match he played early this month.
"It's pretty tough, mentally, to play," said Davydenko, a semifinalist last year, who encountered little trouble in a 6-4, 6-0, 6-1 victory over Jesse Levine, another American wild card.
Federer, seeking to become the first man since Bill Tilden in the 1920s to win four straight titles in the U.S championship, faced only two break points in beating American Scoville Jenkins 6-3, 6-2, 6-4.
"I thought it was a good match, you know, tough match. Didn't allow my opponent many chances on my serve," Federer said.
"Maybe other guys like five-setters in the first round. I like straight sets more. Some reason, I don't know why," he added smiling.
Henin defeated Germany's Julia Goerges 6-0, 6-3, relieved to move on at her least favorite Grand Slam.
"It's so different. You need to get used to it," the Belgian star said. There are places where you feel a little bit better."
Among the seeded men to advance were No. 9 Tomas Berdych, No. 10 Tommy Haas, No. 13 Richard Gasquet, No. 14 Guillermo Canas, and No. 19 Andy Murray.
The seeded losers were restricted to former finalist and world No. 1 Juan Carlos Ferrero, who lost to fellow Spaniard Feliciano Lopez 6-3, 6-4, 6-4, 18th-seeded Marcos Baghdatis to Max Mirnyi of Belarus 6-3, 7-5, 3-6, 7-6 (6), No. 20 Paul-Henri Mathieu, and No. 26 Jarkko Nieminen to John Isner of the United States 6-7 (4), 7-6 (4) 7-6 (5), 6-4.
The tournament lost another player when 2004 Wimbledon semifinalist Mario Ancic withdrew with a right shoulder injury. His spot in the draw, facing third-seeded Novak Djokovic in the first round, was filled by Robin Haase of the Netherlands, who lost in qualifying.
The only three seeded women to fall were No. 17 Tatiana Golovin, No. 25 Mara Santangelo and No. 29 Samantha Stosur.
But among those advancing were Wimbledon finalist Marion Bartoli and 2006 semifinalist and third-seeded Jelena Jankovic.
Jankovic blew a 6-2, 5-1 lead before subduing Jarmila Gajdosova of Slovakia 6-2, 7-6 (2) on her seventh match point.
She admitted losing concentration midway through the match when her shoe "broke somehow."
"I started thinking 'What am I going to do if this shoe completely wears out? Can I play barefoot?'"
A trainer fixed her problem, and she was on her way.


Updated : 2021-03-03 17:29 GMT+08:00