TORONTO - Anyone who doesn't include Serena Williams on the short list of favourites to win the Rogers Cup is a fool.
Especially now that Kim Clijsters has pulled up lame.
Williams, unseeded in Toronto and ranked 80th in the world because she's missed most of the last year due to injuries, showed flashes of the dominant game that has taken her to the top of the women's tennis world and won her the 2001 Rogers Cup title.
In an effortless performance that lasted just 46 minutes, Williams dispatched Alona Bondarekno of the Ukraine 6-0, 6-3 in her first-round match Tuesday at the Rexall Centre.
"I'm definitely a lot healthier, obviously, than I have been before," Williams said. "I'm not using as much energy as I used to. Maybe I've evolved. I don't know. I haven't really had much of a chance to think about it too much."
With the retirement of second-seeded Clijsters against Jie Zheng of China due to an abdominal muscle injury, Williams' route to the semi-final just got a lot easier.
Clijsters packed it in while leading Zheng 6-2, 1-2 in the final match of the night, leaving No. 8 Francesca Schiavone of Italy as the only remaining seeded player in the bracket. It was the Belgian's first match since injuring an ankle in the UNICEF Open in mid-June but the most recent injury came out of the blue.
"During my warmup before my match I felt my left stomach muscle was really, really tight and when I started serving it just gradually got worse," she said. "I got taped to try to protect the muscle as much as possible so that I wouldn't make it worse. During my match I just felt like, yeah, it (got) worse and worse."
While Clijsters has been hounded by the injury bug ever since winning the Australian Open in January, Williams appears to be through her rough patch -- including a near-death experience from a pulmonary embolism early in the year -- and rounding into form with the U.S. Open set to begin later this month.
"I definitely want to get better on a few things, so I definitely want to try to continue to do more and play harder," she said. "I would hate to be Grand Slam ready now, seeing that the U.S. Open is not right now. So I will try to peak at the right time."
Next up for Williams will be Julia Goerges of Germany, a surprise winner over Serbian Jelena Jankovic on Monday.
The injury to Clijsters, who appeared en route to a straight-set win over the qualifier Zheng, puts her appearance in the U.S. Open in jeopardy. The 28-year-old Belgian said she had an ultrasound done soon after retiring against Zheng and the results weren't good news.
"I have a partial tear of my left stomach muscle, a little bit of blood," Clijsters said. "I still have a few weeks until (the Open). We'll try to do everything to get ready. I'll have a lot of treatment in the next few days."
After a slew of upsets on the opening day of the tournament, play mostly reverted to form on Day 2.
Andrea Petkovic, the 11th seed, cruised to the easy 6-2, 6-2 win over Canadian teenager Eugenie Bouchard, who was making her Rogers Cup debut. Unseeded Ana Ivanovic of Serbia, the 2006 Rogers Cup champion, whipped China's Shuai Zhang 6-1, 6-1.
"Actually, this morning I didn't think I would play any match (because of a rain delay) but I ended up playing both, which was very good," Ivanovic said, referring to her doubles win with Petkovic that came shortly after her match with Zhang. "I never played her before so I didn't know what to expect. I'm very pleased, overall."
Daniela Hantuchova of Slovakia got past Argentinian Gisela Dulko 6-3, 6-4 and Poland's Agnieszka Radwanska, the 13th seed, downed Elena Vesnina of Russia 6-4, 6-1. Flavia Pennetta of Italy, Anabel Medina Garriguez of Spain, Roberta Vinci of Italy, lucky loser Shuai Peng of China and Croatia's Petra Martic also advanced. Jelena Dokic of Australia, once the No. 4 player in the world, retired early in the first set against Bojana Jovanovski of Serbia.