AMELIA ISLAND, Fla. (AP) — Gaining steam as the night wore on, Monica Seles began her Bausch & Lomb title defense with a 7-6 (0), 6-0 victory over Anna Smashnova on Wednesday.
The third-seeded Seles played evenly with the 40th-ranked player in the world until the first-set tiebreaker, which she started with an ace, continued with a pair of backhand winners and closed with a 7-0 shutout.
Seles lost only seven points in the 16-minute second set. The fifth game was most impressive. Teeing off on Smashnova’s serve, Seles hit three straight winners that left her opponent rolling her eyes and looking skyward in confusion.
I didn't want to have another long set,'' Seles said.I just said, try to step up your game and go for your shots. If you lose, at least lose that way. Don’t lose playing something that’s her game or not my game.”
Seles’ game included serves over the 100-mph mark and an array of service returns that barely allowed Smashnova to get into the points.
The nine-time Grand Slam champion showed no ill effects from an ankle injury that bothered her at the Ericsson Open two weeks ago. She lost 6-0, 6-0 to Martina Hingis in the semifinals and left the court to boos from a normally adoring crowd.
But this is a new week, a new season. And Seles overcame some early awkwardness to look right at home in this, the first clay-court tournament of the year.
It's such a difference moving on this compared to the hard courts,'' said Seles, who hadn't been on the clay in eight months before this week.It takes time to adjust for everybody. I mean, we’re humans just like everybody else.”