2013 U.S. Open: Venus, Serena Williams roll in first round

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“I stay positive because I know I can play great tennis. Sometimes you just have to go through more than what you want to go through,” the American said after winning the first four games and the last four games against Belgium’s Flipkens. “Sometimes you have to have losses.”

She was No. 1 in 2002, but hasn’t cracked the top 10 since she was No. 9 in March 2011. She hasn’t been past the third round at a Grand Slam tournament since a fourth-round exit at Wimbledon later that year. Indeed, Venus lost in the first round in two of her previous four appearances at majors.

Her match was the day’s second in the main stadium, and owing perhaps to the early hour — or the stricter security measures, including new metal detectors, that led to long delays for spectators entering the grounds — there were thousands of empty blue seats in the 23,000-capacity arena.

The place was full for the night session, however, when the No. 1-ranked and top-seeded Serena won the first eight games, prompting Schiavone, in a brief moment of levity, to walk behind a baseline and envelope a ball boy in a full embrace.

“I don’t need a hug in that moment,” Schiavone joked afterward. “I need a game.”

It was that kind of evening for Schiavone, an often-demonstrative player who is certainly no pushover: In addition to her triumph at Roland Garros three years ago, she was the runner-up there a year later, and twice was a U.S. Open quarterfinalist. Ranked as high as No. 4, she is 54th this week.

“I knew playing a former Grand Slam champion in the first round was a really, really tough draw,” Serena said, “so I tried to be super serious.”

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