ROME (AP) – Venus Williams needed three sets to win her opening match at the Italian Open on Monday, beating Lucie Safarova of the Czech Republic 6-2, 4-6, 6-2.
“I was OK with the match being a little longer,” Williams said. “I just I want to hit balls. In a way it’s not too bad to go three sets. “
She appeared to take control of the clay-court match in the first set, firing eight aces and as many winners in 28 minutes.
However, the American’s service levels dropped and Safarova started playing her powerful groundstrokes deeper in the second set. Williams was broken in the third game and was unable to break back with Safarova serving out to win the set.
In the deciding set, the fourth-seeded Williams held serve in a crucial third game after saving four break points. She went on to break in the following game, as a forehand by the 22-year-old Czech went wide, and then again to close out the match.
Both players had 22 winners, but Safarova had 33 unforced errors, seven more than Williams.
“We both played aggressive,” Williams said. “She’s just going for every shot, for the lines.”