NEW YORK — Even Venus Williams was surprised at how well she played after two months away from the game.
“I’m not sure I expected to be so sharp,” Williams said.
In powering her way to a 6-4, 6-3 victory over Vesna Dolonts at the U.S. Open on Monday night, Williams served at up to 126 mph and hit six aces. She won the point on 15 of 20 trips to the net. She compiled a whopping 28-7 edge in winners against the travel-weary Russian.
Williams looked far more dangerous than the average unseeded player does. She is unseeded at Flushing Meadows because she’s ranked only 36th after entering the tournament having played 10 matches over the past 50 weeks.
“I just want to play tennis,” said Williams, whose seven Grand Slam singles titles include the 2000 and 2001 U.S. Opens. “It doesn’t matter what the tournament is, I just want to play. Obviously the Open is huge, but I just want to play.”
“I just need a chance to play. So the season hasn’t really even started yet for me,” she added. “It’s been like a blip here and a blip there.”
The 31-year-old American hadn’t played a match since June 27, when she lost in the fourth round at Wimbledon. After that, she missed the recent hard-court tuneup tournaments because of a viral illness. She wouldn’t say exactly what she was diagnosed with, but described it as “energy sucking.”
After withdrawing from the Australian Open in January because of a hip injury, Williams missed about four months, then came back at a grass-court tournament in England a week before Wimbledon.
“No one is more in ‘one match at a time’ mode than me now,” she said.
On the same court, Roger Federer tied Andre Agassi for the second-most Grand Slam wins in the Open era by defeating Colombia’s Santiago Giraldo 6-4, 6-3, 6-2.
The third-seeded Federer, a 16-time major champion, now has 224 Grand Slam wins, nine behind Jimmy Connors.
Earlier, Maria Sharapova came back from a set and a break down against 19-year-old Heather Watson, of Britain to win 3-6, 7-5, 6-3, improving to 12-0 this year in matches that went the distance.