MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) — It was inevitable after such an energetic performance in her second-round win over Stefanie Voegele at the Australian Open that Venus Williams would get asked about transcending the generations in tennis.
The 36-year-old, seven-time major winner played the first of her record 73 Grand Slam tournaments at the French Open in 1997. Back then, she got to play against the likes of Steffi Graf and Martina Navratilova.
Against the 26-year-old Voegele at the Australian Open on Wednesday, Williams mixed up her game, clearly not intent on relying only on the kind of power game that helped her make a mark on the sport. She won 6-3, 6-2, hitting 24 winners and getting five service breaks.
“I have to talk about this every interview,” Williams said in reply to what has become a regular post-match question to the oldest player in the women’s draw here. “I’ve played some of the greats.
“It’s an honor and privilege to start that young,” she added, laughing, “and play this old.”
In the second set, serving and with a game point, she chased the ball like a teenager from one side of the court to the other, and back, trying to finish off. Her forehand landed too long, but her intention was clear. Get through the round ASAP. She won the subsequent two points to hold.
At 15-15 and 5-2 in the second, she was still remonstrating with herself after missing a point. She finished off the match later in the same game, another break, to reach the third round. Williams lost to eventual semifinalist Johanna Konta in the opening round last year.
If a pattern continues, she’s a decent chance of reaching the quarterfinals — she’s gone that far three times previously in the year she returned after a first- or second-round exit at Melbourne Park.
She is playing her 17th Australian Open, but has never won the title. Her best run was to the final in 2003, when she lost to her younger sister, Serena. The siblings were pairing up for a first-round doubles match later Wednesday, and second-seeded Serena is on the other half of the singles draw.
In other early matches, No. 11 Elina Svitolina had a 6-4, 6-1 win over U.S. qualifier Julia Boserup and No. 24 Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova beat fellow Russian Natalia Vikhlyantseva 6-2, 6-2.
Top-ranked Angelique Kerber, on her 29th birthday, was playing the second match on Rod Laver Arena against fellow German Carina Witthoeft.