Venus Williams returns a shot during her victory over Bethanie Mattek-Sands… (Timothy A. Clary / Getty…)
NEW YORK — Bethanie Mattek-Sands didn't have a chance against Venus Williams on Tuesday at the U.S. Open. Williams beat her fellow American, 6-3, 6-1, in 62 minutes. Williams hit 22 clean winners to only six for Mattek-Sands. Williams hit five aces and had one serve reach 124 mph.
"She was serving bombs," Mattek-Sands said. "She was attacking my second serve. I can never be surprised when Venus is playing well."
And yet it was a little surprising.
A year ago at this tournament Williams withdrew before her second-round match and announced she had Sjogren's syndrome, an energy-sapping autoimmune disease.
Even though Williams had been adamant when she made her announcement and quit the Open that she would not quit playing, it was easy to imagine Williams, who turned 32 last June, rejecting the idea of spending hours and days and weeks and months training for tennis.
Williams could look at a career that features seven major tournament titles, including two U.S. Open championships, and perhaps be content.
But she was out in the hot sun Tuesday, grunting with effort, pounding in those big serves, stretching her long arms to reach shots from Mattek-Sands that seemed destined to be winners, and rocking a rose-patterned dress from her own fashion line, EleVen.
"I had a floral print today which I think is pretty new for tennis," Williams said.
What wasn't new for tennis was the way Williams powered through the match. She lost the first two games and attributed the slow start to some nerves. "Just coming back to the Open after last year, it was a big deal for me," she said. "So to get back out there in front of the crowd was a wonderful feeling.
"But it felt great once I got on a roll and started playing some good points. Then I felt very comfortable."
Another American veteran, Andy Roddick, also felt comfortable in Arthur Ashe Stadium. Roddick, who won his only major title here in 2003 and who turns 30 Thursday, had an easy win over former University of Tennessee star Rhyne Williams, 6-3, 6-4, 6-4.
Feeling much less comfortable was eighth-seeded Caroline Wozniacki, who had been to at least the semifinals here the previous three years. The former world No. 1 from Denmark was upset by Irina-Camelia Begu of Romania, 6-2, 6-2. This was Begu's first U.S. Open main draw win. Wozniacki was playing with a right knee heavily taped.
The defending men's champion, second-seeded Novak Djokovic, was untroubled by 30-year-old Italian Paolo Lorenzi. Djokovic won, 6-1, 6-0, 6-1, in 1 hour 13 minutes. Djokovic also played Lorenzi in the first round at the Australian Open, and lost only two games in that match as well.
Up next for Williams is a tough match against sixth-seeded Angelique Kerber of Germany. A year ago, well after Williams had quit the Open, Kerber made her first big breakthrough at a major, advancing to the semifinals. Kerber is ranked a career-best No. 6 in the world now. Williams, who was once No. 1, is ranked No. 46.
"But Venus will feel like the favorite," Kerber said. "She's at home."