by JAMES HENRY
CINCINNATI – A finalist last year, Serena Williams made a successful, but tense debut at the 2014 Western & Southern Open in Cincinnati.
With a slight edge in two tie-breaks, she defeated Australia’s Samantha Stosur: 7-6 (7), 7-6 (7).
“It’s been really good to play such close matches and then come out on top even though I’m defeated and then down. To be able to actually win those are really good,” Williams said.
“Like usually I would be upset over today, but I think I did well and she did well,” she said. “I’m just happy to get through this match.”
The American noted Stosur, who earned the U.S. Open title over her in 2011, was extremely aggressive, praising her serve, in particular.
“She made very few unforced errors today. She just did everything really well. She obviously served really well today. Didn’t hit too many double faults and had a good, high first-serve percentage,” Williams said.
“This is why she was able to win a Grand Slam, because she played like that today.”
The top seed now will face Flavia Pennetta in the third round. The Italian beat 18-year-old American Taylor Townsend: 6-4, 6-3.
In a press conference after her match, Williams said she is excited about the future.
“I feel pretty good about going into the rest of the year. You know, I’m excited about next year,” she said, referencing her early exits at this year’s Australian Open, the French Open and the Wimbledon Championships.
“It’s always fun to be defending champion, but it’s always even more fun if you’re not because you can only go forward and only move up. It’s pretty cool.”
With many points to maintain from last year, including her champion performance at the U.S. Open, Williams joked that she should have started to worry about keeping her No. 1 ranking earlier this season.
“Like around French Open time,” she laughed.
Is there more motivation to get to the top or to stay there?
“I think it both works in separate ways. Like, obviously, when you’re not, you just do everything you can to be there. When you are, you want to do everything you can to hold on,” Williams said.
“I love the chase, so to say. In tennis, that is,” she smiled. “But at the same time, I also love being on top. I love it.”
Williams said she watches a lot of men’s tennis matches, to the point she knows many of their weaknesses and strengths and, in turn, how she would play against them.
Her favorite to watch? 2012 U.S. Open and 2013 Wimbledon winner Andy Murray.
“Hands down,” she said.
“Because he acts like me on the court,” she added with a laugh.