It has been a quiet summer for Venus Williams, who has been nursing a knee injury since Wimbledon and doing all her playing on the practice court. But she's a star, and when they turned on the lights at Arthur Ashe Stadium, she responded on cue with a dominating 6-4, 6-1 win over Italian Roberta Vinci that got better as Williams went along.
Since winning the Open in 2000 and 2001 and losing in the finals in '04, Williams has reached the semifinals only once since then. But little sister Serena, the No. 1 ranked player in the world, is out with an injured foot, and in some ways that makes No. 4 Venus very dangerous to the rest of the draw.
Yes, she's coming off an injury and isn't match-tested, but she's rested and she's focusing strictly on the singles title since she only plays doubles with Serena. The Williams sisters lost the doubles title at Wimbledon, and Venus said that made her realize how much she loves playing doubles.
"When you win majors, they say your name: 'She has 22 whatever.'" Williams said. "I like that. I want to keep adding those numbers, singles, doubles, mixed. It all goes down to my name. I'd like to keep that happening."
Asked if she would have tried to play doubles despite her ailing knee if Serena were in the tournament, Venus smiled and said yes. So, is it better for her knee that Serena's out? "Absolutely," Venus said with a laugh.
Vinci could testify to that. Williams began the match with an ace and never let up. "I hit an ace and said, 'Yeah, here I am,'" Williams said.
Sometimes, the Williams sisters seem indifferent to all their success, and their energy ebbs and flows. But they know as well as anyone what it is to perform in the big spot, and this is a big spot, which makes it the perfect place for a comeback by Venus.
"Playing the opening night is a big deal," Williams said. "It's usually always sold out. This is the event to come to -- New York, the opening night of the Open. It's really an honor. I love doing it."
As for how her knee held up, Williams was pleased. She admitted landing hard on it after one volley, but then she added of Vinci, "After that, she did most of the running, so, that helped me a lot…I played really consistently, and I didn't make a lot of errors. Even less errors in the second [set], really cleaning up my game."
There's a long ways to go, but don't be surprised if Venus Williams cleans up at the end with the trophy. The singles title is the only number she can add to her total of Grand Slams.