Venus Williams delighted a packed Centre Court on the opening day of competition at the Prudential Hong Kong Tennis Open on Monday when she downed Japan’s Risa Ozaki 6-4, 6-1 to seal a comfortable passage into round two of the US$250,000 competition.
The American, a consistent visitor to Hong Kong since her first excursion back in 1999, was scheduled first up on a baking hot “People’s Monday” seemingly in an effort to begin proceedings at Victoria Park with a bang and she did not disappoint.
A series of explosive forehands and darting ground strokes proved too much for the spirited 22-year-old Japanese, who provided stubborn opposition in a to and fro opening set.
Williams’ power, though, shone through in the second and final set as she completed a 74-minute win.
“I’ve never really worked on my power,” said Williams afterwards.
“It’s just natural for me. I didn’t really hit as hard as I can because it would be very high risk.
“For different players, parts of the game come naturally and for me that’s a natural part of my game and I go with it.”
Watch: Highlights of Venus Williams’ opening round victory and post-match interview
The seven-time grand slam winner is entering her 23rd year on the WTA tour, and despite seeing her world standing drop to 14 this season the 36-year-old says she is still hungry for titles.
“I love the game and when I’m gone, I’ll be gone. But while I’m here, I’m going to give it everything and try to come out of every match as a winner,” said the American.
“I want to continue to win titles. Never in my career was I focused on the rankings, it was all about titles.”
The crowd favourite mischievously suggested she could be joined by her sister Serena in Hong Kong for next year’s tournament.
“I love the city, I love the shopping, and it just has a special energy here. I’ve been coming for many years,” she said in an on-court interview after the match.
“I told Serena, ‘You’ve gotta come next year’, so hopefully next year I’ll bring my doubles partner,” said the former world number one to massive cheers on Centre Court.
Elsewhere on Monday, Hong Kong number one Zhang Ling came through her opening doubles match with playing partner Marina Erakovic of New Zealand. The duo beat Ng Kwan-yau and Zheng Saisai 7-5, 7-5 to progress to round two.
Meanwhile, France’s Alize Cornet, a winner at the Hobart International earlier this season, beat Varvara Lepchenko of the USA 6-3, 6-2 to reach the second round.
Tuesday’s action sees Zhang open her singles account. She meets mainland player Wang Qiang in her opening match.
Caroline Wozniacki, a winner already on the Asian swing of the Tour after an impressive victory in Tokyo last month, takes on China’s Zheng.
World number one Angelique Kerber faces Greek Maria Sakkari, and world number 10 and China Open runner-up Johanna Konta faces fellow Briton Naomi Broady in an all-English affair.