TOKYO, Japan - Venus Williams showed she's still got it - and there's a lot left of it, too - stunning No.1-seeded Victoria Azarenka in her opening match at the Toray Pan Pacific Open on Tuesday night.
Though Williams had won both of the pair's previous meetings, those were both before her illness and injury struggles of the last few years - and before Azarenka got really, really good. But Williams was in the zone this time too, winning 75% of her first serve points and breaking serve five times during the match too, eventually beating the second-ranked, top-seeded Belarusian in straight sets, 62 64.
Azarenka talked about her physical condition afterwards in her post-match press conference.
"I haven't been feeling well the last few days and haven't been able to practice," Azarenka said. "It has been very frustrating. But I got out there for the people. Everyone was waiting a long time for this match, so there was no way I wasn't going to go out there. I appreciate people coming out and paying for the tickets - they should see the players play. And I tried my best. I did whatever I could do today.
"But you have to be at your best to play against a top player like her. So all the credit to her."
"I don't think Victoria was feeling her best - hopefully she'll be feeling better and ready for Beijing - Lord knows I know what it's like not to feel great," Williams said. "But other than that, obviously it's great to win today, but the tournament's not over, it just started, so I have to continue playing well now."
Williams and Azarenka's other two meetings came at the Olympics in 2008 (Williams won, 63 62) and Dubai in 2010 (Williams won, 63 75). Williams improves to 3-0 in her head-to-head against Azarenka.
Agnieszka Radwanska, the No.2 seed, also had a battle on her hands against Aleksandra Wozniak, falling behind 4-2 in the first set and facing four set points down 5-4 - and even falling behind 4-1 in the ensuing tie-break. But she passed every one of those tests and went on to win in straights, 76(5) 60.
"Coming from Seoul, I didn't really have much time to adjust and rest, but it's always good to win a tournament and I'm happy to play again this week," Radwanska said. "I think winning last week gave me a lot of confidence. Today I played much better after I won the first set, and I'm feeling good."
All eight third round matches at the Toray Pan Pacific Open in Tokyo will take place on Wednesday.