Serena Williams beat Elena Vesnina at the China Open on Sunday, her first match since winning the US Open. The World No.1 also praised sister Venus Williams, who just had a huge week in Tokyo.
WTA Staff

BEIJING, China - Serena Williams made a happy return to the courts at the China Open on Sunday, playing - and winning - her first round match against Elena Vesnina at the Premier Mandatory stop.

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The No.1-seeded Williams had a little hiccup in the first set - she stormed out to a 4-1 lead but then dropped three games in a row to see that lead evaporate to 4-all - but she closed out the set anyway, and from 1-2 in the second set reeled off five games in a row to advance in straight sets, 64 62.

"Elena served really well today - she's always had such a good serve," Williams said. "I knew going into the match that she mixes up her serve well, hits big ones, so I was just ready for everything."

Williams was asked afterwards about how she stays so consistent against lower-ranked opponents.

"I definitely feel like I have a target, but I always have a target," Williams commented. "Whether I'm No.1 or No.10, I feel like people lift their game against me, for whatever reason. But I think it's good. I think that's really one of the reasons I've been able to develop my game throughout the years.

"I also don't look in advance. I take every match one at a time. So whoever my next match is, I look at that as my next danger, because I could win or I could lose. For me, that's just how I look at it."

It has been a spectacular season for Williams, perhaps most importantly winning two more Grand Slam titles - the French and US Opens - to bring her career tally to 17. She's now just one away from tying Chris Evert and Martina Navratilova for second place at 18, and five away from Steffi Graf's 22.

"Once my career started I never thought I would even be in the conversation of being the greatest," Williams said. "Obviously I would like to get to a certain number, but I don't think about it too much because I just want to enjoy every moment that I have. Every time I win Grand Slams, I just want to have fun with it. I think what enables me to win more is that I don't put that pressure on myself.

"But I will try my best to win more. I can only do my best - believe me, I will try."

Williams will have a day off from singles on Monday, but she will take the doubles court with sister Venus Williams - the pair will play Chan Hao-Ching and Liezel Huber, finalists in Tokyo last week.

"Venus is so inspiring in terms of her fight - she never gives up, even after what she's been through. I've never seen her down - maybe once, but that's it. It's encouraging, not only for me, but for anyone who's going through something. You see her and realize that if you keep trying, you can get through it.

"I think Venus is the greatest player I've ever played, and to me she's capable of anything. So I would never say that she isn't capable of becoming a top player again, no more than I'd say I wouldn't be."

Other winners included Maria Kirilenko, who escaped triple set point down 5-4, 40-0 in the first set and beat Zheng Jie, 75 62, and Laura Robson, who battled past Klara Zakopalova in three, 76(3) 46 61.

A pair of qualifiers - Lauren Davis and Misaki Doi - also moved through to the second round.