Fed Cup tennis: Venus Williams powers USA to early lead against Netherlands
Venus Williams defeated Arantxa Rus in straight sets to hand USA the advantage over Netherlands in their Fed Cup tennis encounter.tennis Updated: Feb 11, 2018 09:20 IST
Venus Williams swept aside Arantxa Rus in straight sets to take the defending champion United States 1-0 up in their Fed Cup first-round tie against the Netherlands on Saturday.
Cheered on by her younger sister Serena, who is poised to make her own comeback to the sport after a year away and the birth of her daughter, seven-time Grand Slam winner Venus made relatively light work of her 124th-ranked opponent to win 6-1, 6-4.
The 37-year-old, who enjoyed a renaissance year in 2017 when she reached two Grand Slam finals, showed signs of slowing down towards the end of the second set even as her advantage in skill and raw power were on display.
It was her 1000th career match and her 22nd singles appearance in a tournament she first played in 1999, but Williams insisted milestones were far from her mind.
“I don’t really know about these milestones when they happen,” she said. “It’s just great to be playing the game that I love -- not really going for milestones, but then they happen.”
In front of a packed and roaring home crowd in mountainous Asheville, North Carolina, Williams won the toss and served first, closing out the opening game with a searing ace in an early show of intent.
Her Dutch opponent was unable to hold her own and later admitted she had let her nerves get to her as the first set slipped away.
“I didn’t start good. I was a bit nervous. Also because you play against such a great player,” said the 27-year-old.
The second set began more evenly, as the players found themselves locked in long rallies and unable to hold their own serves.
They were level at 2-2 before Venus eventually began to pull away.
Baby Alexis makes appearance
Williams acknowledged the second half was tighter than it could have been.
“It’s never a win until it’s over,” she said. “On paper I looked like I should win the match but it was a battle and I’m glad the USA won the battle.”
She added: “It’s a little challenging, a little altitude out here. You know, I like to go big.
“I was trying to find the balance between going big and going too big. I think that today’s match hopefully will help me for tomorrow.”
Williams had a slow start to the year, losing in the first round of the Australian Open last month to Belinda Bencic of Switzerland, but insisted she had plenty of time to turn things around.
“I think I’m playing well. I just had some bad luck, I played players who just were on fire,” she said. “Sometimes that happens, (it’s) just the beginning of the year.”
In the second singles, CoCo Vandeweghe was to take on Richel Hogenkamp.
Serena Williams, who was already expecting daughter Alexis Olympia when she won her 23rd Gand Slam title at the 2017 Australian Open, is slated to play doubles on Sunday with Lauren Davis.
She received a big ovation during team introductions and sat on court with her teammates during Venus’s match.
Baby Alexis Olympia, born in September, was in attendance, too, in the arms of her father, Alexis Ohanian, in the seats right behind them.