Shocks were conspicuous by their absence on the opening day of the US Open, with Venus Williams and defending champion Kim Clijsters among the seeds enjoying a comfortable passage into the second round at Flushing Meadows.
Third seed Williams had not played since losing in the quarter-finals of Wimbledon due to a knee injury, but relied on all her big-match experience to beat Italy’s Roberta Vinci 6-4 6-1 in the first evening match on Arthur Ashe Stadium.
There were occasional signs of her left knee causing Williams some pain, and she admitted: “It was doing pretty good until I landed on that leg.
“I was pretty happy with my game, I did everything pretty consistently and I had to because she didn’t give me a lot of errors. But of course I’m looking to improve with every match.”
World number one Serena Williams is absent with a foot injury of her own and Williams added: “It’s not the same without two Williams (sisters). I have a lot of victory shoes to fill but I am trying.”
Clijsters earlier conceded she no longer has the element of surprise on her side after recovering from 4-0 down in the second set against Greta Arn.
The second seed completed a remarkable return to the sport last year after previously retiring in 2007, beating Denmark’s Caroline Wozniacki in the final at Flushing Meadows in only her 14th match and third tournament of what she likes to call her “second career”.
“I think last year the players didn’t really know what to expect of me after having been off for so long,” Clijsters said. “I also had a lot of questions in my mind, seeing how are the top players playing.
“I played a couple of tournaments leading up to the US Open but didn’t play against any of the Williams sisters or (Maria) Sharapova, those big names.
“I then had a match in Toronto against (Jelena) Jankovic where I felt like I was hitting the ball well and I had chances to win. I lost a close match but that to me was obviously a match where I felt like ’Okay, I can still do it’.”’
American Melanie Oudin, who reached the quarter-finals here last year as a 17-year-old, enjoyed a 6-3 6-0 victory over Olga Savchuk of Ukraine, and there were also easy victories for sixth seed Francesca Schiavone and 12th seed Elena Dementieva.
Fifth seed Samantha Stosur was made to work harder before eventually beating Russia’s Elena Vesnina 3-6 7-6 6-1, while former world number one Dinara Safina, who was top seed here last year, bowed out after losing 6-3 6-4 to 24th seed Daniela Hantuchova.
Safina has been plagued by a back injury which has forced her to miss almost three months of the 2010 season – including Wimbledon – and is currently ranked 50th in the world.
Another former world number one looking to climb back up the rankings, Serbia’s Ana Ivanovic, enjoyed a 6-3 6-2 win over Ekaterina Makarova.