ROME – Venus Williams won her first match in a month by defeating Patty Schnyder 6-2, 6-2 at the Italian Open, while defending champion Dinara Safina lost her opener Tuesday.
Safina, playing in her second tournament since the Australian Open because of back problems, lost to Alexandra Dulgheru of Romania 6-4, 6-7 (5), 6-1 at the Foro Italico.
Williams, who lost to Safina in the semifinals last year, had been sidelined with a knee problem since losing the Key Biscayne final.
The fourth-seeded American was in control against Schnyder, breaking the Swiss veteran six times.
The third-seeded Safina recovered from 4-0 behind to pull even at 4-all but lost the next two games and dropped the set. After taking the second set in a tiebreaker, Safina fell behind 5-0, and twice smashed her racket in frustration. She sent a forehand wide to give Dulgheru the match.
A former top-ranked player, Safina retired from the Australian Open in January with a lower back injury, and in her first tournament back — last week's Porsche Grand Prix — she lost in the quarterfinals to Shahar Peer.
In a later match, No. 1 Serena Williams was to play Timea Bacsinszky.