Venus, Federer Return to Familiar Form

On opening night, two tennis and style icons, Venus Williams and Roger Federer, graced Arthur Ashe Stadium, each seeking a return to their former glories at the US Open. 

Both former champions repeatedly pushed forward to finish off points at the net and registered routine victories over outmatched opponents. Venus is a two-time winner here, but she hasn't triumphed in New York since 2001, and is returning to the tour after a summer of inactivity.
Williams had not stepped foot on a tennis court since a disappointing quarterfinal loss at Wimbledon and a knee injury that sidelined her during the entire US hardcourt season, leading up to the year's final major. Dressed for success, in a sleek and chic little black number with a fringed hemline, Venus withstood an early challenge from her unheralded Italian opponent, the veteran Roberta Vinci, and stormed to a convincing victory, 6-4, 6-1.

Venus, who celebrated her 30th birthday earlier this summer, did not show any lingering effects of the knee injury. She moved fleetly about the court and struck deep, penetrating groundstokes that kept the 65th-ranked Vinci on her heels. "I have big shoes to fill with just one Williams in the tournament," said Venus, referring, of course, to the conspicuous absence of her little sister, top-ranked Serena, who was forced out of this year's Open by a freak off-court foot injury.

The last time Roger Federer appeared on Ashe he lost an epic five-set final to the Argentine upstart Juan Martin del Potro, losing his bid for a 6th consecutive US Open crown. Taking the court against another Argentine, but this time one named Brian Dabul, ranked 96th in the world and making his US Open debut, a similar result seemed unlikely.

Indeed, at times Federer seemed to toy with his opponent. At one point deep in the second set he pulled off a spectacular no-look tweener: the Swiss raced from the net to deep behind the baseline and rifled a sharply angled, between-the-legs shot for a winner, leaving Dabul looking bemused and hapless. The trick shot was perhaps even more deftly executed, if of less import, than the similar highlight Federer nailed in last year's semifinal versus Novak Djokovic.

But while he struck 46 winners to only four for Dabul, at times Federer made very uncharacteristic and sloppy errors, looking occasionally listless and capitalizing on just five of 19 break-point opportunities.

In Federer's very first service game, Dabul fought his way to a break point, but that was the last time the Argentine would find himself ahead in the match. The contest was never truly competitive, and the outcome never in doubt; Federer won 6-1, 6-4, 6-2, in just 1 hour, 33 minutes.

Federer is now 16-0 in night-session matches on Arthur Ashe Stadium. Although he is in the unusual position of being the second seed, Federer has a draw through to the quarters that could not be kinder.

Match Facts
- Williams won 81 percent of her net approaches (13 of 16).

- Feder notched 18 aces and 46 winners, to 0 aces and just 4 winners for Dabul.

- Federer approached the net 36 times, winning 24 of those points..

- Venus struck 32 winners, versus 12 for Vinci.


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