NEW YORK (Reuters) - Seven-times major winner Venus Williams is choosing to accentuate the positives in her return to competition at the U.S. Open after sitting out two months with a left knee injury.
Thrilled to be back on center stage inside Arthur Ashe Stadium for her first test since the Wimbledon quarter-finals, Williams dispatched Italy’s Roberta Vinci 6-4 6-1 as the curtain went up on night action at the Open.
“This is the event to come to, you know, New York, the opening night of the U.S. Open,” the 30-year-old Williams told reporters. “It’s really an honor. I love doing it. I’ve had the opportunity on a lot of occasions. Everyone’s watching.”
Williams treated the opening night crowd to some of her trademark power, belting 10 aces, and a lacy black party dress with fringe on the bottom that befit the occasion.
While her look was picture-perfect, Williams was not sure her preparation would prove first rate.
“Not having played any matches wasn’t ideal,” she admitted. “Obviously, practice is so much different from a match. I felt like I was hitting well in practice, but to translate into a match is something completely different.
“But I think I handled it well and I’m just looking to build momentum going to the next matches.”
Williams tried to focus on the positives.
“I guess my only advantage would be that I’m hopefully mentally a lot fresher and physically, hopefully, a lot fresher than maybe my opponents who played all summer,” she said.
“You know, I’ve got to try to look at it in a positive way and bank on my experience. That helps a lot because I’ve had a lot of winning experience,” the twice U.S. champion said.
Williams said she regretted the absence of her sister and doubles partner, world number one Serena Williams, who had to skip the Open because of a foot injury.
She said she loves to play doubles with her sister and would have been sorely tempted to join forces with her in Flushing Meadows, especially after they came up short together at Wimbledon, even though it would have been hard on her knee.
Even that disappointment was turned into a positive.
Asked if it would be better for her knee that she is not playing doubles at the Open, Williams replied with a smile: “Absolutely.”
Reporting by Larry Fine, Editing by Frank Pingue