Tuesday, September 25, 2018
Sports

Serena not perfect, still cruises

MELBOURNE, Australia — For the first five games in the second set, Serena Williams played almost flawless tennis in her first-round match at the Australian Open.

Then came the rustiness that tends to follow a lengthy layoff, giving Belinda Bencic a glimmer of hope, before Williams regained her composure to win 6-4, 6-3 Monday. The six-time Australian Open champion improved her impressive record in the first round of Grand Slam tournaments to 65-1.

The No. 2-ranked Williams' priority here is an Open era-record 23rd major title. She's one win down — beating a player who was seeded 12th here last year and reached a career-high No. 7 ranking last February — and is targeting six more at Melbourne Park.

"She was just recently in the top 10. I knew it would be one of the toughest first-round matches I've ever played," Williams said.

In round two she'll meet Lucie Safarova, who beat Yanina Wickmayer 3-6, 7-6 (9-7), 6-1.

Bencic got one service break in the first set but took only two points in the first three games on Williams' serve in the second.

Serving for the match at 6-4, 5-1, things changed. Williams finished her 2016 after the U.S. Open, resting injuries. And started 2017 with an error-prone loss in Auckland, New Zealand.

Williams served her second double-fault of the match to give Bencic a break-point chance, and Bencic converted it with a crosscourt winning forehand.

The Swiss teen held at love then faced a match point, when Williams double-faulted again. Williams, 35, made no mistake on her second match point and pumped her fist in celebration. She finished with 30 winners and 30 unforced errors, eight errors and four double faults.

Karolina Pliskova and Johanna Konta both had their Grand Slam breakthroughs last year, both prepared for the season's first major with title runs in Australia and both advanced with straight-set wins.

U.S. Open finalist Pliskova followed her title win at the Brisbane International with a 6-2, 6-0 victory over Sara Sorribes Tormo.

The fifth-seeded Pliskova, who beat Williams in the U.S. Open semifinals before losing the final to Angelique Kerber, has never advanced past the third round at Melbourne Park.

Konta, who won the Sydney International title last week, had a tougher time in beating Kirsten Flipkens 7-5, 6-2 on Margaret Court Arena.

Comments
Lightning journal: Kucherov leaves preseason game with lower-body injury

Lightning journal: Kucherov leaves preseason game with lower-body injury

F Nikita Kucherov played in the first period against the Panthers, but he did not return for the second.Midway through the second, the Lightning ruled him out for the rest of the game with a lower-body injury.Lightning coach Jon Cooper did not want t...
Updated: 8 minutes ago
Already playing well, Rays’ Tommy Pham promises more

Already playing well, Rays’ Tommy Pham promises more

ST. PETERSBURGTommy Pham has been doing some impressive things for the Rays since coming off the DL after coming over from the Cardinals in a July 31 trade.Like hitting .357 in 32 games, posting a 1.087 OPS and reaching base in a career-best 27 strai...
Updated: 15 minutes ago
Playing well, Pham promises even more

Playing well, Pham promises even more

ST. PETERSBURGTommy Pham has been doing some impressive things for the Rays since coming off the DL after coming over from the Cardinals in a July 31 trade.Like hitting .357 in 32 games, posting a 1.087 OPS and reaching base in a career-best 27 strai...
Updated: 20 minutes ago

Sports on TV/radio for Wednesday, September 26

TODAYBaseballAstros at Blue Jays4 p.m.MLBMarlins at Nationals4 p.m.FSFYankees at Rays7 p.m.Fox Sun; 620-AMBrewers at Cardinals7 p.m.ESPNDodgers at Diamondbacks10 p.m.ESPNCollege volleyballAuburn at Mississippi State7 p.m.ESPNUFlorida at LSU8 p.m.SECK...
Updated: 1 hour ago

High school scoreboard for Tuesday, September 25

Tuesday’s scoreboardBoys swimmingShorecrest 181, Tampa Prep 133Girls swimmingShorecrest 159, Tampa Prep 135
Updated: 1 hour ago
Marc Topkin’s takeaways from Tuesday’s Rays-Yankees game

Marc Topkin’s takeaways from Tuesday’s Rays-Yankees game

LHP Jalen Beeks didn't make a good showing with his pitching, allowing three runs on four hits and two walks over 32/3 innings and throwing 65 pitches to do so. But he did open eyes with a running, sliding catch of a pop-up near the Rays dugout.Manag...
Updated: 1 hour ago
New forward Danick Martel hoping to stick with Lightning

New forward Danick Martel hoping to stick with Lightning

TAMPA — Danick Martel didn't have much of an opportunity to ease his way into his time with the Lightning.10,164 Lightning fans flocked to Amalie Arena on Sunday to watch Martel's debut practice, also known as Fan Fest.As if there was not alrea...
Updated: 2 hours ago

Ryan Fitzpatrick played better than you may think

TAMPA — The announcement of which Bucs quarterback will start at Chicago Sunday will have to wait.Jameis Winston and Ryan Fitzpatrick met with Dirk Koetter Tuesday and were given the news."So we know what we're going to do,'' Koetter said. "Bot...
Updated: 3 hours ago
Bucs’ Gerald McCoy heard apologizing to Ben Roethlisberger mid-hit

Bucs’ Gerald McCoy heard apologizing to Ben Roethlisberger mid-hit

For all of his accomplishments on the field, Bucs defensive tackle Gerald McCoy has been dogged by unfair criticism throughout his career that he's too nice.One moment during Monday's 30-27 loss to the Steelers isn't going to help him in th...
Updated: 4 hours ago
USF football attendance on the rise

USF football attendance on the rise

Even as college football attendance suffers a general decline, USF's turnout appears to be on the uptick.Average actual attendance for the Bulls' first three home games is 24,815, an increase of more than 18 percent from the first three home contests...
Updated: 4 hours ago