Seles beats Casanova in Rome

Rome – American Monica Seles advanced to the second round of the Rome Masters on Tuesday after defeating feisty Swiss 17-year-old Myriam Casanova here at the Foro Italico.

Winner of four Grand Slams, 29-year-old Seles responded well after losing the first set and eventually triumphed 4-6 6-2 6-3 in the Italian capital.

A champion here in 1990 and 2000 and a former world number one, Seles will now face Russian Nadia Petrova in the next round.

“It’s a great feeling to be back here and see my fans,” said Seles, who was just 19 when she was stabbed in the back in Hamburg by a fanatical fan of her then-rival Steffi Graf.

“Myriam is a young, up-and-coming player and she hits the ball so hard, it was a really hard fought match.”

Broken in the opening game, Seles had quick chances to even the scores but she spurned two break points in an error-strewn fourth game.

Growing in confidence, Casanova’s two-handed backhand proved her most effective weapon as she went on to take the first set 6-4 in 36 minutes.

With Seles’ first serve percentage remaining above 70 per cent in the second, Seles stormed back to draw level, as Casanova wilted in the blazing afternoon sun.

Casanova broke in the fourth game of the decider to go 3-1 up in the third, and although her vicious serve gave her experienced opponent problems, a string of unforced errors undid all her good work and allowed the American to advance.