Serena and Venus Williams made a successful transition to clay on Tuesday, easing through their opening matches with straight-set victories at the WTA Tour’s Charleston tournament.
Fifth seed Serena, the 2008 Charleston champion, hammered 11 aces in overpowering last year’s runner-up, Elena Vesnina, 6-3, 6-4, in a second-round match at the US$740,000 event.
“I really love the clay. I feel like it suits my game,” said Serena, who was playing her first match on the surface in almost two years. “I don’t have to go crazy and move my feet so much.”
“And it’s no different from hard or grass — I should be able to play the same and do the same, if not better, because I have more time,” she said.
World No. 87 Venus, who returned to the tour last month in Miami after being out seven months because of illness, needed just 79 minutes to dispatch qualifier Iveta Benesova of the Czech Republic 6-4, 6-3 in the first round.
Seven-time Grand Slam champion Venus is fresh off an impressive comeback showing in Miami, where she won the first four matches of her return.
“Miami was definitely a whirlwind,” Venus said on Tuesday. “A lot of times I ended up the victor at the end of these matches and I didn’t really know how it happened.”
The Williams sisters did not play in last month’s prestigious Indian Wells tournament because of a boycott that began in 2001, when fans booed them.
Venus received a wild-card invitation into the Charleston draw, which she won in 2004. She booked a clash with seventh-seeded Serbian Jelena Jankovic, who enjoyed a first-round bye.
Venus was to be put to the test yesterday, as Jankovic has won their last four matches on clay and holds a 6-5 lead in career contests. Jankovic routed Venus 6-0, 6-1 in their most recent meeting, two years ago in Rome on clay.
“It’s a great surface for her and she always gets comfortable on clay, so I know I have to play well,” Venus said. “We’ve had some things we’ve been dealing with, with injuries, so it’ll be an important match for both of us. I’ll definitely have to be patient and try to move forward the best I can.”
Venus finished out of the top 100 in the world last year for the first time in 15 years after a season plagued by injury and illness.
She withdrew from the second round of the US Open, where she revealed she had been diagnosed with the autoimmune disorder Sjogren syndrome, and did not play again until making it to the quarter-finals at Miami.
Serena, who was given a bye through the first round in Charleston, saved six of seven break-point chances and won 73 percent of her first-serve points in the 85-minute match.
Russian Vesnina was runner-up to Denmark’s Caroline Wozniacki in Charleston last year. Serena will play either 17th seed Marina Erakovic of New Zealand or unseeded Anna Tatishvili in the third round.
In other matches on Tuesday, a pair of Aussies won their second-round contests in straight sets.
Second-seeded Samantha Stosur beat American Jamie Hampton 6-0, 7-5, while fellow Australian Anastasia Rodionova surprised 10th seed Anabel Medina Garrigues 7-5, 6-3. Stosur compiled a 5-2 lead in the second set, then had to hold on for the victory.
“I’m really looking forward to this part of the season. I hope I can have a good week here,” Stosur said. “Today, I lost serve for the first time when I was serving for the match, but she played some good points. She probably felt she had nothing to lose and went for it more. But from 5-all I played two good games.”