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August 20, 2009

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Bondarenko packs off Venus early, Clijsters eases through

VENUS Williams' tuneup for the US Open hit a surprising roadblock in a 1-6, 7-5, 6-4 loss to Ukraine's Kateryna Bondarenko in the second round of the Rogers Cup in Toronto on Tuesday.

Venus, ranked third, lost to an opponent ranked 64th. She was playing at this tournament for the first time since 1997 when she was 17. She has lost all three of her matches at the Rogers Cup.

"I was definitely expecting to play well and to go very far in the tournament," Williams said. "It's disappointing."

Bondarenko hadn't taken a set off the American in two previous matches. "I was playing really good," Bondarenko said. "The first set, I didn't know what to do with her power. The rest of the game, I just tried to keep the ball in play."

Venus controlled the first set but couldn't shake Bondarenko, who chased down shot after shot in stifling Rexall Centre.

Bondarenko won the last three games for the second set, and broke Williams once more in the third. She won 20 of 28 service points in the deciding set.

"She played well," Venus said. "She really started playing consistently. Unfortunately I made too many errors. I would have liked to play a cleaner match."

Kim Clijsters cruised past Elena Baltacha of Britain 6-3, 6-4. The 2005 Rogers Cup champion and former world No. 1 looked solid from beginning to end in her second tournament following more than two years away from tennis.

"I still feel like I have a long road ahead of me to get back to where I was," the Belgian former world No. 1, who gave birth to her first child in February 2008, said.

"But it's a challenge and that's why I decided to come back to see if I can still make myself get up there. It's a big challenge but it's one I really look forward but I definitely still have a lot of work to do."

Also, Australian Samantha Stosur made short work of No. 6 seed Svetlana Kuznetsova 6-4, 6-3.

Former No. 1 Ana Ivanovic, still seeking her first title of the year, overcame a slow start to defeat Magdalena Rybarikova of Slovakia 2-6, 6-3, 6-2 in the first round.

Ninth-seeded Victoria Azarenka of Belarus, a three-time winner on tour this year, dispatched Peng Shuai of China 6-3, 6-3, and Flavia Pennetta of Italy, celebrating her top-10 breakthrough, defeated Maria Kirilenko of Russia by the same score.

Also, Lucie Safarova of the Czech Republic got past Kaia Kanepi of Estonia 6-4, 7-6 (3), Russian qualifier Alla Kudryavtseva beat French qualifier Julie Coin 6-2, 1-6, 7-6 (8), Shahar Peer of Israel edged Monica Niculescu of Romania 6-4, 4-6, 7-6 (4) in just under three hours, Zheng Jie of China downed Elena Vesnina of Russia 6-3, 6-2, Dominika Cibulkova of Slovakia handled Sara Errani of Italy 6-4, 6-2 and Alisa Kleybanova of Russia beat Aleksandra Wozniak of Canada 6-4, 6-4.


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