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Serena Williams extends winning streak

Serena Williams took the first step toward winning a third consecutive tournament when she beat Lucie Hradecka of the Czech Republic 6-3, 7-6 (5) in the first round of the Western & Southern Open on Tuesday.
Williams, who last won three straight tournaments at the beginning of the 2008 season, has improved her world ranking from No. 175 to No. 31 in her comeback from injury and illness.

She has won 12 straight matches, equalling Kim Clijsters and Victoria Azarenka for the longest such streak on the WTA Tour this year. “I’m not going for three,” she said. “I just want to play the best that I can. I don’t even think about that kind of stuff.” Defending men’s champion Roger Federer reached the third round with a 6-3, 7-5 win over Argentina’s Juan Martin Del Potro, who had won the last two matches between the pair, including the 2009 U.S. Open final.

 “I expected a tougher match, for obvious reasons,” he said. “It went better than I thought. I had a wonderful first set, and the second set, too. I was able to keep him from playing the game he likes to play. I was able to mix it up and serve well.” Williams was pushed by Hradecka in the second set.

 She built a 5-1 lead before Hradecka rallied to take the lead. Williams regrouped to force a tiebreaker and advanced to the second round when Hradecka double-faulted on match point. “I was upset that I didn’t close it out,” Williams said. “She started playing different and playing better — running a lot.” Williams next plays Australian Samantha Stosur, whom she beat 6-4, 6-2 in the championship match last week in Toronto.