Venus Williams felt “old” as she struggled to overcome unsung teenager Jade Lewis before a 7-6 (7/2), 6-2 win in the Auckland Classic first round on Wednesday.
World number 17 Venus, ranked 1,082 places ahead of the 18-year-old New Zealand wild card playing her first WTA match, was on the brink of losing the first set after a string of broken serves.
Lewis, a niece of 1983 Wimbledon finalist Chris Lewis, had two chances to serve for the first set at 5-4 and 6-5. Lewis also held set point.
But the 36-year-old Williams shrugged off the pressure to break Lewis twice, take the tie-break 7-2 and cruise through the second set.
“The first match of the year is never perfect,” Williams said.
“But I’m happy to be into the next round and playing another teenager. I’m just feeling old.”
Second seed Venus plays Japan’s Naomi Osaka, 19, later Wednesday in her second-round match while her sister and number one seed Serena faces fellow American Madison Brengle.
Williams and Lewis were on serve at 2-2 in the first set Tuesday when rain forced the match to be held over.
At the restart on Wednesday both players struggled to hold serve with six breaks in the first set.
The second set was more lop-sided although Lewis did manage one more service break when Williams was 5-1 up.