August 26, 2008, 9:09 pm
Venus Williams Cruises Into Second Round
By JOSHUA ROBINSON
Venus Williams in action Tuesday night. (Jeff Zelevansky/Reuters)
Venus Williams began her campaign for a third Open singles title Tuesday night with a 6-2, 6-3 defeat of Australian Samantha Stosur and started on a collision course toward the quarterfinals where she could meet her sister, Serena.
At times, it was a clinical, ruthless display of power and confidence that sent a clear message to the rest of the women’s field. At others, particularly in the second set, the sluggishness from having played half a world away in the Olympics seemed to creep into her game.
Williams entered as the seventh seed because she has played so few events on the tour this year, in part due to a right knee injury. She was also seeded seventh at Wimbledon, where she reached the final at the All-England Club without dropping a set before beating her sister, Serena, to win her fifth championship there.
Wimbledon also provided the breezy, green setting for the previous meeting between Williams and Stosur, and perhaps Stosur thought it would be easier this time around. After all, that encounter came in the Wimbledon women’s doubles final when the Williams threat came in stereo. But even without her sister and doubles partner, Williams was never troubled.
Williams was aggressive from the start, lurking well inside the baseline on Stosur’s serve and charging the net with abandon. She broke Stosur in her three of her first four service games and three more times in the match. Stosur returned the punch once in the first set, but couldn’t deliver the shots on her other break points to capitalize.
Stosur found her groove — or something closer to it — in the second set and even stole a 3-1 lead after taking Williams’ serve. But Williams found another gear and muscled her way back to 3-3 and then to the victory.
“I knew she had a lot of ability, a lot of power,” Williams said of Stosur. “But that’s when I play my best, when I’m down.”
Both players were in Beijing earlier this month and both were unceremoniously ousted from the singles tournament. Williams lost in the quarterfinals while Stosur lost in the second round to Serena Williams. The difference was that Stosur and Raymond bowed out of the Olympic doubles tournament while the Williams sisters went on the win the gold medal.
“I’ve had the best summer ever,” Williams said after the match. “Of course we wanted to come here, but winning a gold medal and playing for your country, there’s no comparison.”
As always at the Open, there was great interest when Williams removed her warm-up jacket. In the past, she has modeled sequined getups and backless numbers, sometimes bordering on the outrageous, in the line of duty. But on Tuesday, she wore a simple black outfit.
As the saying goes, you can never go wrong with a little black dress and Williams didn’t. Though her crushing forehand, backhand and serve might have helped, too.