Former world No. 1 Venus Williams, resplendent in a floral dress and pink dreadlocks, showed glimpses of her old power by blasting past German Mona Barthel 6-3, 6-1 to reach the second round of the Pan Pacific Open yesterday.
No longer the force of old and only 62nd in the world, the 33-year-old American still had too much firepower for Barthel in Tokyo, taking just 63 minutes to sweep past her 34th-ranked opponent.
The seven-time Grand Slam singles winner faces an uphill task to extend her stay, however, with top seed Victoria Azarenka — runner-up to Serena Williams at the US Open earlier this month — her next opponent.
Ninth seed Sloane Stephens, one of the new generation of American players, who once claimed the Williams sisters refused to sign an autograph for her at a tournament in Florida when she was 12, thrashed Switzerland’s Stefanie Voegele 6-3, 6-2 to advance to the second round.
In other matches, twice major winner Svetlana Kuznetsova of Russia flattened Argentine qualifier Paula Ormaechea 6-1, 6-2, while 14th-seeded Belgian Kirsten Flipkens was tested in a 7-6 (7/4), 7-5 win over Czech Barbora Zahlavova Strycova.
Fifteenth seed Sorana Cirstea started the US$2.3 million event with a routine 6-4, 6-4 victory over Julia Goerges.