- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 17, 2002

MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) Hobbled by a sore left knee, Venus Williams still managed to avoid an upset. Unlike the top five players in the men's draw and her sister, Serena, she survived to play a third round at the Australian Open.

"God has blessed me to get through this round," Williams said after a 6-3, 6-4 victory over American Kristina Brandi, ranked 79th. It was her 22nd consecutive match victory and it did not come easily.

There were 36 unforced errors and seven double faults, but Brandi could not take advantage. "If I was playing maybe a top player, I think the chances would have been very slim," Williams said.

A year ago, Williams arrived in Australia as the reigning Wimbledon and U.S. Open champion. Then she played lackluster tennis and was drubbed 6-1, 6-1 in the semifinals by Martina Hingis.

This year, she looked fit and ready until her match against Brandi.

Williams said she felt the knee injury "just about 20 minutes before the match. … I guess I just had problems in the past, and sometimes old pain revisits you at the most inopportune times. I just feel like Serena wasn't able to play so I had to give it my all and just hang around a little longer."

Serena Williams, seeded fifth, dropped out before the Open with a turned ankle from a warmup tournament in Sydney.

The men's side was missing its top five seeds unprecedented for the second round at a Grand Slam event and injuries were largely to blame.

The men's draw also lost its 10th-seeded player Wednesday, when Wimbledon champion Goran Ivanisevic fell 6-3, 7-6 (2), 5-7, 6-4 to France's Jerome Golmard. Ivanisevic had a massage on his sore left shoulder during the fourth set, but said the injury had nothing to do with losing.

"Sure I'm disappointed, but if I have fun like this on court, and give my best, I go proud," he added.

Third-seeded Andre Agassi, the 2000-01 champion, hurt his wrist in a warmup tournament and withdrew before the Open.

Top-seeded Lleyton Hewitt, weakened by chicken pox, and No. 2 Gustavo Kuerten, complaining of hip problems, lost in the first round.

On Wednesday, No. 5 Sebastien Grosjean lost 6-4, 3-6, 6-0, 5-7, 6-4 to Spain's Francisco Clavet. He said he had awakened the previous day with neck pains, and wasn't able to hit properly.

No. 4 Yevgeny Kafelnikov, the 1999 champion and 2000 runner-up, also talked of pain but just from the way he played, with 55 unforced errors.

"It was one of those days when I was so flat. I can't recall the last time I was having trouble playing three consecutive shots into the court," he said after losing 6-3, 7-5, 6-3 to American qualifier Alex Kim.

Kim said he hadn't expected so many misses from Kafelnikov, but "I felt confident going into the match not that I was going to win, but that I was hitting the ball well and I think that I had a good shot."

Kim, a former Stanford player ranked 234th, was in only his third match at a Grand Slam event. He lost to Agassi in the first round of the 2000 U.S. Open and won the first round here before playing Kafelnikov.

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