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Venus Williams beats player half her age at Dubai tournament

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — Defending champion Venus Williams beat an opponent half her age on Monday, winning 6-1, 6-2 against 17-year-old Belinda Bencic of Switzerland in the first round of the Dubai Tennis Championships.

Despite the age difference, the 34-year-old Williams looked physically fitter than her opponent and dominated throughout to earn her 16th straight win in Dubai. She won the tournament in 2009, 2010 and 2014, skipping the event the other three years.

“At 34, I mean, I’m hitting a little bit harder than most people and playing some offense on the run and hitting the ball just as hard,” Williams said. “When I was 17, I didn’t think about what the age was of someone across the net. All you think of is I want to beat them.”

Bencic broke for a 2-0 lead in the second set but Williams quickly rebounded to wrap up the win in 69 minutes.

A sleep-deprived Daniela Hantuchova of Slovakia needed 2 hours, 39 minutes to overcome Mona Barthel of Germany 7-6 (5), 3-6, 6-3. Hantuchova was coming off her Thailand Open victory in Pattaya City on Sunday.

“This is where the love for the sport comes in,” Hantuchova said. “Yes, I’m tired, but it’s the best feeling in the world.”

Playing on her fourth continent in the last four weeks, Karolina Pliskova of the Czech Republic also advanced with a 6-2, 6-4 win over Anastasia Pavylyuchenkova of Russia.

The 17th-seeded Pliskova reached the third round at the Australian Open, then went to Canada to play for the Czech Republic in the Fed Cup. After that, she reached the semifinals at a tournament in Belgium and then traveled to Dubai.

“In the second set I had a break, and then I was feeling I’m sleeping a little bit,” Pliskova said. “But then I (came) back and I’m happy that I didn’t go (to) the third set.”

Also, 11th-seeded Lucie Safarova of the Czech Republic beat Monica Puig of Puerto Rico 6-1, 6-4 and 16th-seeded Peng Shuai of China defeated lucky loser Elena Vesnina of Russia 7-5, 6-1.

CoCo Vandewegh was trailing Elina Svitolina of Ukraine 3-1 when the American retired from the match with a shoulder injury.

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