NEW YORK, NY, USA - No.9 seed Venus Williams showed marked improvement in her night session debut at the 2017 US Open, knocking out big-hitting Frenchwoman Oceane Dodin, 7-5, 6-4, to reach the third round in Flushing Meadows.
"I'm not out there reading press, watching TV or trying to see who said I was going to win," she said in her post-match press conference. "At the end of the day there's people who are talking about the winning and there are people who are actually playing the matches.
"I just need to play the match."
Williams is one of six women still in the running towards becoming the WTA's next top ranked player, needing to win the title to have a chance to returning to WTA World No.1 for the first time since 2002. After needing three sets to get past Grand Slam debutante Viktoria Kuzmova, the American was much sharper against Dodin, a big stage player who already claimed a win over Dominika Cibulkova at the Mutua Madrid Open earlier this spring.
Falling behind 2-5 in each set, Dodin made late pushes but Williams proved too experienced under the lights of Arthur Ashe Stadium, striking 32 winners to just 14 unforced errors against the the 20-year-old's 20 winners and 27 errors.
"I played two big servers in both rounds. When you get your opportunities, you do have to close on them.
"Today by the stats the match was super clean. Obviously there was an opportunity there to get a 2-2 match, perhaps. But, you know, I feel like each round is a time to improve."
Standing between Venus and a spot and the second week is Greek No.1 Maria Sakkari, who outsteadied Australian wildcard Arina Rodionova in straight sets.
"It will be a little bit different than the first two matches, especially in terms of the service games. We did play a well-contested match. I'm going to have a lot of opportunities and I'm going to want to capitalize on them. I'm looking forward to it."