The 2003 Australian Open finalist Venus Williams lost in the first round in Melbourne last year to Britain's Johanna Konta. But this time around, the seven-time Grand Slam singles champion was too strong for Stefanie Voegele, defeating the world number 112, 6-3, 6-1.
The American kicked off play in the Rod Laver Arena on day three of the Australian Open in style. It is also vital for Williams to conserve plenty of energy if she is to mount a serious title challenge as the veteran suffers from Sjogren's syndrome.
Williams gets off to a strong start
The former world number 42 won the coin toss and elected to serve. Voegele got off to a slow start with the American breaking Voegele with crushing forehands cross-court drawing the forehand error from Voegele.
The American started her service game with two forehand winners, followed by a double fault but she consolidated the break with a forehand unforced error springing from Voegele's racquet and a good first serve drew the error from Voegele to lead 2-0.
In the following game that lasted almost eight minutes, Williams got the double break on the fourth break point chance she was given with a forehand unforced error out wide from Voegele. Immediately, in the fourth game, Voegele looked to get one of the breaks back, starting this game with authority by finding a backhand winner in the corner ending a remarkable 16-shot rally.
The Switzerland native would win the next point with a backhand return winner down the line. Moreover, the 13th seed would win the next point with a forehand winner down the line. Furthermore, Voegele's improved play would hand her two break points. An exquisite backhand lob winner with Williams at the net drew the first break point chance. The former world number one would save one of the break points with an ace down the T and a good second serve to get the game to deuce. Nonetheless, Voegele would get one of the breaks back with a forehand lob winner and forehand down the line to trail 3-1.
Williams had the chance to re-establish her double break advantage but Voegele held serve with two aces out wide to cut the deficit to one game trailing, 3-2. The 36-year-old would win the next game easily, holding to love with a comfortable 4-2 lead. In the following game, forehand unforced errors from Williams' racquet allowed Voegele to hold serve, 4-3.
The seven-time Slam champion had no problems in the eighth game, playing aggressively, a one-two shot combo with a first serve, and an ace down the T handed Williams a 5-3 lead. The Swiss qualifier had to hold serve, in order to stay in the opening set but she couldn't. A couple of unforced errors handed Williams two set points at 15-40. The first one was saved by virtue of a Williams forehand unforced error but Williams eventually clinched the second set point in 42 minutes with a forehand sailing long from Voegele.
Williams books her spot in round two
However, Williams started the first game of the second set but the forehand unforced errors continued to arise in the American's game. The first break point of the second set was handed to Voegele by a backhand unforced error from Williams. However, the American's first serve snuffed out the break point chance, and she clinched the first game with a forehand winner placed into the corner.
In the second game, Voegele quickly built a 40-0 lead with a couple of aces in quick succession, however, Williams amped up the pressure drawing the errors from the world number 112. The Swiss qualifier held serve to level the second set at 1-1 by virtue of another Williams forehand unforced error.
Like Voegele, Williams built a 40-0 lead in the next game, however, a backhand error, a failed drop shot at the end allowed Voegele to squeeze a passing shot down the line. Voegele got a smash winner at the net to get the game to deuce. However, the former world number one managed to hold serve with a forehand winner landing inside the baseline and a backhand unforced error.
The Swiss qualifier would have been bitterly disappointed to have not broken the American's serve in that game. Forehand unforced errors are springing from both players' racquets. At 40-30 with a game point, Williams would break the former top 45 player's serve with a forehand winner in the corner, and a rare come on from Williams was roared.
The 2003 finalist consolidated the break with a smash at the net to lead 4-1, in a game that was filled with forehand unforced errors. In the sixth game of the second set, Voegele's first serve was a good one, followed by a backhand passing shot winner down the line from Williams. Moreover, a service winner down the middle got the Swiss qualifier to a 30-15 lead, Williams applied more pressure with a backhand crosscourt winner. However, Voegele held her serve in a 17 shot rally getting Williams around the court with a forehand low volley winner and a backhand volley winner at the net sealed the game to lead 4-2.
The 13th seed remained in cruise control by starting the eighth game with a backhand passing shot winner down the line and an ace down the T with another come on. The American held to 15 by virtue of another forehand unforced error from Voegele's racquet.
Voegele had to serve to stay in the match which proved to be a difficult test. She started the game with a backhand unforced error in the net but she would win the next two consecutive points with a backhand crosscourt winner. However, a forehand unforced error and a timely double fault handed Williams, her first match point. The Swiss qualifier dragged out the American, and she saved the match point by virtue of a tame backhand sailing into the net from Williams. A forehand unforced error in the net, handed the 13th seed another match point, and she took it with a backhand winner down the line, to reach the third round, 6-3, 6-2 in 1 hour and 23 minutes.
Surprisingly the 26-year-old out-aced the former world number one, dishing out five aces to four. Williams got 57 percent of her first serves in and won 69 percent of the points on it. However, Williams produced 24 winners and 24 unforced errors, compared to Voegele's 18 winners and 22 unforced errors.
Next for Williams in the third round
The 13th seed will play in the third round of the Australian Open for the 13th time in her career, and she will be up against China's Duan Yingying, who will be competing at this stage of a Grand Slam for the first time. The 27-year-old defeated Williams' compatriot, Varvara Lepchenko in a three-set thriller, 6-1, 3-6, 10-8. Williams will have a good opportunity of reaching the quarterfinals in Melbourne with fourth seed Simona Halep, her projected, fourth round opponent falling in the first round. Although, Olympic gold medalist and 29th seed Monica Puig, may have other ideas in the mind.