TOKYO: Former world number one 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 currently 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, whose career has been blighted since being diagnosed with the autoimmune disorder Sjogren’s Syndrome in 2011, 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.
Carefully coiffed braids poking through the top of her sun visor, Williams took the first set with a fierce forehand which caught the back of the baseline and wrapped up proceedings by bludgeoning a backhand past Barthel.
Williams celebrated with a polite curtsy to an appreciative crowd at the venue for the 2020 Olympic tennis. She shrugged when asked about Azarenka.
“I’ve played so many matches in my career I’m ready for whatever happens on the court,” she told reporters after making her first appearance at the Tokyo meet since reaching the quarter-finals in 2009.
“I’ve seen so many big matches between Azarenka and Serena -- their final at the (US) Open was awesome. Hopefully that will help me.
“I’m excited to be back and the next step is just to go out and play well.” REUTERS