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Venus shaky in opening victory


NEW YORK -- What we learned on Opening Night as Venus Williams struggled past unseeded Russian Vera Dushevina 6-7 (5), 7-5, 6-3:

1.The long-legged Williams' left knee is not her only concern. Tendinitis -- which has hampered her throughout the summer -- was the reason that the trainer was called onto the court following the third game of the opening set Monday. She was stretched, massaged and eventually wrapped to return, but Williams suffered from a case of itchy feet as well. Eight times her front foot touched the line, triggering foot faults that cost her points and momentum. She questioned several of the calls, but the linesmen and lineswomen -- who rotated seats and sides -- each had a look."I didn't even know which foot it was in the beginning," she said afterward. Ten double faults also hurt, but she cleaned up those messes with 11 aces. To serve out the second set she rolled off this impressive sequence: ace, jammed Dushevina at 119 mph, ace and closed out with a 91 mph serve that Dushevina returned long.

2.Williams insists she has a left knee "issue," not an "injury." Speaking in Belichickian tongues, Williams -- who was unaware that her father revealed her tendinitis secret to ESPN's Pam Shriver on the air during the match -- smiled away postmatch questions about her health. The violent way that the 29-year-old plays will be discussed as she gets older and her attacking style may not fit her physical abilities any longer -- especially on the hard courts of Queens. Still, she charged the net after receiving treatment in the first set, and showed what reservoirs of resolve she still has in the tank.

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3.Night 1 should be dubbed Midnight Madness. A ceremony honoring Andre Agassi and charity-friendly athletes Mia Hamm, David Robinson and Doug Flutie began at 7 p.m. Williams and Dushevina started play shortly after eight and played for 2:44. Andy Roddick did not take the court until after 11. "I wasn't very patriotic tonight," Williams said, noting that fellow American Roddick would have liked her to make quicker work. Roddick's match ended at 12:45 a.m.

4.Dushevina almost added another Russian name to the mix. A 22-year-old Muscovite who had not played Williams in five years, Dushevina is not one of the four Russian women ranked in the top 10. Nor is her name Maria Sharapova. But her play through the first two sets suggests she may be better than her current No. 47 ranking. Her inability to finish off Williams showed she has more to do to establish herself back home.