Venus Williams rolled back the years to beat Belgium’s Kirsten Flipkens in the first round of the US Open yesterday as the final grand slam of the year burst into life.
Roared on by an energetic New York crowd, Williams showed no signs of the back problems that have sidelined her for most of the year as she demolished her younger opponent 6-1, 6-2.
The 33-year-old American, the second oldest player in the women’s singles draw, provided a glimpse of the form that saw her win the US Open in 2000 and 2001 as she romped to victory in just one hour and 24 minutes. “It’s good to be back,” she said. Williams has only played 18 matches this year and slipped to 60th place in the world rankings while Flipkens is enjoying the best season of her career. The 27-year-old made the semi-finals at Wimbledon in July, her best result at any grand slam, and was seeded 12th for the US Open. Earlier this month, she beat Williams in Toronto after losing the first set 6-0.
China’s Li Na, the 2011 French Open champion and runner-up in Australia this year, needed just 64 minutes to crush Olga Govortsova of Belarus 6-2, 6-2. Poland’s Agnieszka Radwanska, the third seed, thumped Spain’s Silvia Soler-Espinosa 6-1, 6-2 in 63 minutes in the opening match on the centre court. Wimbledon runner-up Sabine Lisicki had a tougher time against Vera Dushevina but came through 6-2 7-6 (7/3)
In the men’s singles, Rafael Nadal continued his hard-court roll with a straightforward victory over Ryan Harrison in the first round of the US Open.
The Spaniard, who missed the tournament last year during his seven-month break with knee problems, came through 6-4, 6-2, 6-2.