MELBOURNE, Australia - Two years ago she had to retire from a Grand Slam match for the first time here, then a year ago she couldn't even take the court - but Venus Williams put it all behind her Monday and in impressive style, crushing Galina Voskoboeva in her first match of this year's Australian Open.
The No.25-seeded Williams was in vintage form as she took on the hard-hitting Kazakh, allowing that Kazakh to hold serve in the opening game but then taking total control from there, winning 12 games in a row to close it out in 60 minutes, 61 60. She hit her 21st winner of the match on match point, running down a series of Voskoboeva forehands before pouncing into the court to put one last backhand away.
"The stats looked good for me. I haven't seen them all yet, but I got a high first serve percentage and more winners than errors, so that always makes a good match," Williams commented. "I don't think my opponent quite got the hang of it out there - it's hard to play the first match in a major, first thing of the year, and that can be a lot of pressure. But I just did my best to close the match out today."
Williams talked about what she needs to build on moving forward. "I just want to continue to have depth on my shots," the former World No.1 declared. "I'm a net player; I like to get to the net. But the courts are a lot slower, so you have to be selective on how you get to the net, especially. Continuing to serve well always makes the match easier. So those are some of the big picture things."
It has been 15 years since Williams played here for the first time in 1998 - she reached the quarterfinals that year before falling to Lindsay Davenport. How has the tournament has changed over the years?
"I feel like this tournament definitely has the best facilities of any of the majors," Williams said. "It's constantly improving here. I think it's unbelievable what they have done at the national tennis center over there in just improving the player facilities. That's fantastic, reinvesting into the tournament."
And how has she changed throughout her own career? "My goals in '95, I didn't even know what I was doing. I just thought I had a dream and thought I could do it. Now I have done a lot of things and don't really have anything to prove, except for I have my desire to play and to play well.
"That's really what it's all about at this point - getting the best out of me."