Venus Williams won her first red clay match of 2017 in two tight sets against Yaroslava Shvedova at the Internazionali BNL d'Italia.
WTA Staff

ROME, Italy - 1999 Internazionali BNL d'Italia champion Venus Williams made a triumphant return to red clay on Monday, ousting Yaroslava Shvedova, 6-4, 7-6(4) to advance into the second round in Rome.

"She’s a tricky opponent and I haven’t played in a number of weeks, so it’s always tough to get back on your feet," she said after the match.

The former No.1 started her clay court campaign back at the Volvo Car Open after a scintillating start to her season, reaching the finals of the Australian Open and the semifinals at the Miami Open.

After narrowly losing to eventual semifinalist Laura Siegemund on green clay, the American pulled out of the Mutua Madrid Open due to a right arm injury.

"The hard part about being at home is that you have to practice - no excuses! That’s hard because there’s no climax and it’s Groundhog Day. In that way, it’s nice to be back at a tournament."

Ultimately, Venus displayed very little rust as the last match on Center Court, striking 35 winners to 24 unforced errors in 91 minutes against a solid Shvedova, who hit 21 winners of her own against 25 unforced errors.

"There were so many moments where I’d be like, ‘I think I got this,’ and then it’d be like, bam, bam bam and she was back in it. That just shows her level, and it’s what you have to do on clay."

A five-time Wimbledon winner, Venus has the French Open firmly in sight - unlike Roger Federer, who anounced his withdrawal from the second Grand Slam of the season.

"I already play a lot less than other players, and who knows what I’ll do next year, but you do get to a point in your career where you don’t want to spend four or five weeks on the road. You want to play quality over quantity, and I still want to play the big tournaments, so I completely understand.

"I definitely don’t want to watch the French Open from home at this point. It’s a little bit different for Roger because he has four more kids than I do! I don’t have any children at home waiting."

Still, the 36-year-old is looking forward to being an aunt to sister Serena after the 23-time Grand Slam champion announced her pregnancy in April.

"It’s so exciting. I didn’t even know I was going to be in those shower photos. She’s obviously planning on coming back and she misses being here, but she’s obviously got bigger fish to fry, like a real life.

"I don’t know much about anything like that [being an aunt], but I’m going to learn, and hopefully she’ll let me!"

Up next for Venus is Lesia Tsurenko; the Abierto Mexicano Telcel champion withstood a tough challenge from Italian wildcard Deborah Chiesa to win, 7-5, 6-2.