Venus Williams swept aside Arantxa Rus in straight sets to take the defending champion United States 1-0 up in their Fed Cup first-round tie against the Netherlands on Saturday.
CoCo Vandeweghe also defeated her Dutch opponent, Richel Hogenkamp in three sets, to give USA 2-0 up.
Cheered on by her younger sister Serena, who is poised to make her own comeback to the sport after a year away and the birth of her daughter, seven-time Grand Slam winner Venus made relatively light work of her 124th-ranked opponent to win 6-1, 6-4.
The 37-year-old, who enjoyed a renaissance year in 2017 when she reached two Grand Slam finals, showed signs of slowing down towards the end of the second set even as her advantage in skill and raw power were on display.
It was her 1000th career match and her 22nd singles appearance in a tournament she first played in 1999, but Williams insisted milestones were far from her mind.
“I don’t really know about these milestones when they happen,” she said. “It’s just great to be playing the game that I love — not really going for milestones, but then they happen.”
In front of a packed and roaring home crowd in mountainous Asheville, North Carolina, Williams won the toss and served first, closing out the opening game with a searing ace in an early show of intent.
Her Dutch opponent was unable to hold her own and later admitted she had let her nerves get to her as the first set slipped away.
“I didn’t start good. I was a bit nervous. Also because you play against such a great player,” said the 27-year-old.
The second set began more evenly, as the players found themselves locked in long rallies and unable to hold their own serves.
They were level at 2-2 before Venus eventually began to pull away.
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Williams acknowledged the second half was tighter than it could have been.
“It’s never a win until it’s over,” she said. “On paper I looked like I should win the match but it was a battle and I’m glad the USA won the battle.”