DOHA: An exciting opening day of the Sony Ericsson Championships saw 6 of the 8 women in action, and as you would expect with the best of the best the matches were tight and intense.
Elena Dementieva produced the shock result in an exceptionally tight Maroon Group downing Venus Williams in a thrilling three setter, while the younger Williams Serena edged past French Open champion Svetlana Kuznetsova in two close sets.
The only relatively easy contest of the day was an in form Victoria Azarenka justifying her higher ranking, coasting through her match with Jelena Jankovic in straight sets.
With Venus Williams having beaten Dementieva in their last six meetings, it would have been easy to mistake today’s contest between the two players as one that Williams could easily bank on.
Having raced to a 6-3, 3-1 lead in the match, there seemed little reason for Williams to doubt the result would be any different. However, the Russian ace, now with the confidence of an Olympic Gold medal behind her, just refused to give in.
Despite serving 10 double faults in the second set, Dementieva hung in a tight second set taking advantage of both of her break opportunities to stay close in the contest.
As Williams’ first serve started to lose its consistency, Dementieva climbed all over a weak second and managed to steal the tiebreak 8-6.
The final set was all Dementieva, she served a lot better, landing 65% of her first serves and winning 12 of 15 points on them. She saved two break points and created seven of her own as Williams’ own serve deserted her.
Elena took two of her chances for a double break and notched up her first win in the Maroon Group 3-6, 7-6, 6-2.
The other marquee contest of the day featured second seed and Australian Open and Wimbledon champion Serena Williams and French Open champion Svetlana Kuznetsova.
The two heavy hitters slugged it out right from the start, with the Russian star twice going up an early break, but unable to hold on to pull out a meaningful lead.
The set finally found its way through to a tiebreak, where Williams jumped to a 3-1 lead only for Kuznetsova to rally back to win 5 of the next 6 points to claw ahead 6-4.
Williams saved both set points and rattled off four points in a row herself to wrap up the breaker 8-6.
Serena picked up the pace in the second, hammering 8 aces but failed to pull away till right at the end when she broke Kuznetsova to close out the match 7-6, 7-5.
Tomorrow Serena takes on Venus in the last match of the day, knowing that a win for her will almost guarantee a place in the last four, while a defeat for Venus all but knocks her out of the tournament.
In the first match of the tournament, Victoria Azarenka on debut at the Sony Ericsson Championships, took a huge step towards correcting her 0-3 head-to-head record against 8th seeded Serbian Jelena Jankovic producing a comprehensive straight sets win over the former world no.1.
Azarenka made just 15 unforced errors and took only 82 minutes to coast past an error prone Jankovic, in a rather forgettable match for the Serbian star.
Jelena will have little time to put this result behind her as she takes on world no.1 Dinara Safina in the second match tomorrow evening.
Up first on center court will once again be Victoria Azarenka, as she takes on another tournament debutant and US Open losing finalist Caroline Wozniacki in what should be a highly entertaining contest featuring by far the two brightest sparks on the WTA Tour.