By Phoebe Ho
TORONTO, Aug. 7 (Xinhua) -- World No. 1 Serena Williams vanquished Italy's former French Open champion Francesca Schiavone -- ranked No. 57 on the WTA charts -- in two straight sets of 6-3, 6-2 Wednesday evening at Rogers Cup in the Canadian city of Toronto.
It was an intense match that sent four balls flying out of the courts in its two sets. Williams was off to a slow start but gradually picked up her pace to show her formidable serves and powerful groundstrokes -- two of her most biggest weapons -- towards the end of the first set.
"I felt good, I felt solid, and obviously I made a few errors, but it's just my first match and my first match back on hard court in a really long time, I also played a really good player, so it was a good match," Williams told reporters after the match.
Williams, who received a bye into the second round, is a two-time champion at Rogers Cup. With a 19-2 win-loss record at the WTA Premier 5 event, the 31-year-old is now vying for her 54th career title, and eighth title this season.
She crushed Schiavone in the second set. But she fought back valiantly, sending Williams flailing to return her shots.
A determined Schiavone put up a spirited fight against her strong opponent, earning a thunderous applause from the audience near the end of the game, as she dove and sprinted around the court to successfully return Williams' consecutive speedy shots.
Schiavone came close to winning several games in the second set, mixing up the way she played, but failed to carry through each time.
"It was good she played like that," said Williams, who's leading 5-2 in matches against Schiavone. "Now I feel completely adjusted, I feel good going into the next round."
For her third round, Williams is set to face off against Belgium's Kirsten Flipkens, who defeated her sister Venus 6-0, 4-6, 2-6 Tuesday.
China's only Grand Slam singles champion Li Na, who played Wednesday, dominated her match against Russia's Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova in two straight sets of 6-1, 6-4.
The fourth seeded Li started off strong, and despite a two-hour delay which disrupted the first set moments after it began, she jumped right back into the match without skipping a beat.
Besides her strong powerful forehand and backhand groundstrokes, Li also surprised Pavlyuchenkova, ranked No. 31st in the WTA charts, with a change of pace in the second set.
The strong baseline player moved close to the net as often as she could, sending short swift volleys to Pavlyuchenkova's court, breaking up her rhythm as she tried attempted to catch up to Li in the second set.
Li is now the only representative from China still in the running for this year's Rogers Cup title, as Zheng Jie -- ousted from the singles match Monday against Germany's Mona Barthel -- also lost her second round doubles with partner Sania Mirza of India against Georgia's Oksana Kalashnikova and Polish player Alicja Rosolska Wednesday by 6-3,1-6, 6-10.
Li is now set to play against Serbia's Ana Ivanovic in the third round, after she defeated Italy's Flavia Pennetta 6-4, 6-4 in a nail-biting match that lasted one hour and 56 minutes.
Ivanovic, who started off leading the match, found Pennetta edging up in points by the middle of the first set. The pair went toe-to-toe, delivering aggressive groundstrokes. Pennetta matched Ivanovic point-by-point, driving the pair into deuces.
Ivanovic's forceful serves and agility on the court won her points, and eventually led to a win in the match.
Earlier in the day, Zheng and her partner Sania Mirza of India lost in three sets of 6-3, 1-6, 6-10 in a match that lasted just over an hour and nine minutes.
France's Wimbledon champion Marion Bartoli kept her momentum going and defeated qualifier Lauren Davis of the U.S. in the second round by 6-0, 6-3.