Dubai: Former world number one and two-time Dubai champion Venus Williams took her first steps towards a third title with a clinical 6-3, 6-2 win over Elena Vesnina at the Dubai Duty Free Women’s Open on Monday night.
Williams, who is joined in the event by younger sister Serena, has won here on the two previous occasions that she has played in 2009 and 2010, making her only the second player after Justine Henin to successfully defend her crown.
In 2009, she defeated Virginie Razzano of Italy 6-4, 6-2 for the title, while a year later, the American defended her title with a 6-3, 7-5 win over Viktoria Azarenka.
Her win over Russia’s Vesnina was her first in three meetings between the pair.
“Maybe she wasn’t at her best today,” Williams said.
After nearly two decades on the professional tour, Williams is a highly experienced campaigner and this showed as the American wrapped up the first set within just 31 minutes. In the second, she started strong, forcing Vesnina into unforced errors and served solidly for an early break to go 3-0 up.
The Russian broke for the first time in the fourth, but Williams broke back and held for a 5-1 lead to finally wrap up set and match in a little over one hour on Centre Court. The American veteran will now meet the winner of the match between former world number one Ana Ivanovic and last weekend’s Qatar Open losing finalist Angelique Kerber.
“I don’t have any preference; either of them will do in the second round,” Williams said.
Earlier, Lucie Safarova and Carla Suarez Navarro became the first two players to ease into the second round with easy wins.
Safarova got the better of American Sloane Stephens 6-3, 7-5, while Suarez Navarro defeated wild card Nadia Petrova.
Safarova will now await the winner of the match between former world number one Jelena Jankovic and qualifier Maryna Zanevska, while Suarez Navarro will meet defending champion and third seed Petra Kvitova on Wednesday. Though she suffered yet another early exit from Dubai, Stephens was not too downbeat.
“It’s always tough losing to a great player. It was a tough match. She played really well and I didn’t really get a great rhythm,” Stephens said.
“It’s not that bad. It’s still building and hopefully I will keep improving. So much has really happened. It’s been different life experiences. It’s been a long road. Last year was a really long year. It was tough towards the end, but I came through like a champ, and I think I did pretty well,” the 21-year-old added.
Round one main draw:
Lucie Safarova bt Sloane Stephens 6-3, 7-5; Ekaterina Makarova bt Alisa Kleybanova 6-4, 6-7, 6-4; Carla Suarez Navarro bt Nadia Petrova 6-3, 6-2; Venus Williams bt Elena Vesnina 6-3, 6-2.
Playing later: Sorana Cirstea vs Roberta Vinci
Order of play (Tuesday)
Centre Court (Start at 2pm)
Alize Cornet vs Simona Halep
Caroline Wozniacki vs Sabine Lisicki.
(7pm)Angelique Kerber vs Ana Ivanovic
Serena Williams vs Ekaterina Makarova.
Court 1 (Starts at 2pm)
Maryna Zanevska vs Jelena Jankovic
Samantha Stosur vs Annika Beck
Kaia Kanepi vs Flavia Pennetta
Kirsten Flipkens vs Karolina Pliskova.
Court 3 (Starts at 2pm)
Andrea Hlavackova/Lucie Safarova vs Cara Black/Sania Mirza
(4pm) Sara Errani/Roberta Vinci vs Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova/Nadia Petrova
Jelena Jankovic/Alisa Kleybanova vs Alla Kudryavtseva/Anastasia Rodionova.