Last week’s assertion by Venus Williams that she still has what it takes to deliver at the highest level acquired some credence when she impressively settled a score to reach the second round of the Dubai Open on Monday.
The 33-year-old seven-timesformer Grand Slam title winner had lost to Elena Vesnina in both their previous meetings, but outplayed the world No. 33 from Russia by 6-3, 6-2 in little more than an hour.
Encouraging too was that Williams, who has to cope with an immune deficiency on a daily basis, maintained her high standard right till the end and finished looking fresh.
“Every time I played her before, she played unbelievably well,” she said.
“I don’t think she was at her best today, but I’m thankful there will be more matches,” she added.
Williams was referring to an early loss in Doha last week after holding match points against Petra Kvitova, the former Wimbledon champion from the Czech Republic.
To capitalize on tenacious efforts to regain health and fitness she needs to compete as often as possible — but so far this year in four tournaments she has played only nine matches.
She struck the ball with controlled aggression off the ground and also served well, perhaps the key to the whole performance.
She landed more than 60 percent of her first deliveries, often regarded as the measure of good serving, and won points behind the vast majority of them.
Having consolidated that break of serve and closed out the first set, her momentum increased, and she was soon 3-0 up in the second set and motoring. By the end, she had secured a double break.
“The more matches I play, the better I will feel,” she said.
“You know, in moments where I’m controlling the match, the better I will feel in moments where things are close,” she added.
“I feel like I have just gotten a little rusty sometimes in those areas. Yeah. That’s pretty much it,” she said.
Williams, whose younger sister Serena will also compete in Dubai after returning earlier from injury than expected, said that she was staying around because she loved the game.
“Tennis keeps you young. I love the game. I love being out there and giving my all,” she said.
Her reward is a second round against either Angelique Kerber, the sixth-seeded German who was last week’s runner-up in Doha, or Ana Ivanovic, the former world No. 1 from Serbia who beat her in last month’s final in Auckland.
Serena Williams will play Ekatarina Makarova, Russia’s world No. 24, in the second round.
Serena Williams says she asked for a wild card into the Dubai Championships to combat boredom once she believed her back injury was on the mend.
“My back finally started to feel better but it wasn’t better in time for me to play Doha at the level I’d like to play,” she said on Monday. “So then it became more about what can I play next and this was next on the calendar. It gets boring to have to practice every day. I was like, ‘I don’t want to practice anymore. I want to play a match.”’
The American has been sidelined with an aching back since conceding a three-set, fourth-round match to Ana Ivanovic at the Australian Open last month.
She and sister, Venus, who also was given a singles wild card into the main draw, were granted wild cards into the doubles as well.
“It’s actually going to be good for me to do [play singles and doubles] because it will give me some more match play,” Serena Williams said. “I need to get used to the conditions and moving, so it’s definitely helpful.”