Venus Williams returns a shot during her victory over Bethanie Mattek-Sands… (Timothy A. Clary / Getty…)
NEW YORK -- Venus Williams, who announced at the U.S. Open a year ago that she suffered from an autoimmune condition known as Sjogren's Syndrome, a disease that can be strength-sapping, is doing what she promised when she made that announcement.
Playing tennis still.
Williams, 32, a two-time winner of the U.S. Open, advanced to the second round Tuesday with an authoritative thumping of fellow American Bethanie Mattek-Sands, 6-3, 6-1. Williams started slowly, losing the first two games of the match, but with many in the Arthur Ashe Stadium crowd shouting, "Let's go Venus," Williams picked up her powerful pace.
Wearing a dress she designed, one filled with pink roses, Williams was making her 14th appearance at the Open. As she's managed her disease, Williams has played a careful schedule this season. This is only her seventh tournament; she also played in the Olympics. In her final preparatory event before the Open, Williams made it to the semifinals in Cincinnati and beat defending U.S. Open champion Samantha Stosur in the process.
And it was Mattek-Sands, not Williams, who called for a trainer after the fifth game of the second set. She seemed to have an issue with a finger.
After her win, Williams, who won a doubles gold medal at the Olympics with her sister Serena, said to the crowd, "Thank you New York." She also said winning that Olympic medal "was my life, that was my dream."
Because of her sparse playing schedule, Williams is unseeded here and must now face sixth-seeded German Angelique Kerber in the second round. Kerber was a semifinalist here a year ago.
Williams served five aces and hit 22 winners to only six by her opponent, Mattek-Sands. Williams said that to have a chance against Kerber, "I'll have to put a lot of balls in the court." It was Kerber who eliminated Venus in the Olympics singles competition.
Venus's sister, Serena, will play her first-round match Tuesday night against Coco Vandeweghe at Arthur Ashe Stadium.
Cranky Andy Murray wins opening-round match
U.S. Open hasn't been Williams sisters' happy place
It goes from queasy to easy for Maria Sharapova at U.S. Open