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.
In a 6-3, 6-2 win over the 26-year-old Voegele on Wednesday, Williams mixed up her game, clearly not content on relying purely on the kind of power game that helped her make a mark on the sport.
“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.”
Venus and Serena Williams withdrew from a scheduled first-round doubles match later Wednesday, citing an injury to Venus’ right elbow. The sisters have won 14 Grand Slam doubles titles together, including four at the Australian Open.
Venus Williams put plenty into her second-round singles match, which lasted 1 hour, 23 minutes.
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.
In the next round she’ll play Duan Yingying, who beat Varvara Lepchenko 6-1, 3-6, 10-8.
Venus 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 Serena.
No. 11 Elina Svitolina had a 6-4, 6-1 win over U.S. qualifier Julia Boserup to advance to a third-round match against No. 24 Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, a 6-2, 6-2 winner over fellow Russian Natalia Vikhlyantseva .
In another match, Alison Riske beat No. 20 Zhang Shuai 7-6 (7), 4-6, 6-1.
On the men’s side, fifth-ranked Kei Nishikori reached the third round with a 6-3, 6-4, 6-3 win over Jeremy Chardy.
Kerber wins on 29th birthday
Angelique Kerber smiled and waved her arms like an orchestra conductor as the Rod Laver Arena crowd sang “Happy Birthday” after her 6-2, 6-7 (3), 6-2 second-round win on Wednesday at the Australian Open.
The defending champion didn’t enjoy the entire performance on her 29th birthday, angrily swiping her racket in the second set in a burst of frustration that momentarily threw her off her game — and allowed Carina Witthoeft back into the match.
Top-ranked Kerber was cool and controlled in the first set, but struggled against some deep, powerful forehands late in the second.
In the tiebreaker, she led 3-2 but double-faulted twice — once on either side of the change of ends — and didn’t win another point as Witt-hoeft leveled the match.
The tension mounted when she dropped her serve to open the third set, but Kerber recovered her composure and took a 4-1 lead, saving two break points in the fifth game.
Witthoeft, who had lost both her previous matches to Kerber, skewed a forehand wide on match point, then went to the net, shook hands and gave her fellow German a kiss on each cheek.
“I’m always playing on my birthday — always in Australia,” said Kerber, who had her major breakthrough here last year by beating Serena Williams in the final. She later won the U.S. Open and replaced Williams as the year-end No. 1. “I feel like at home here. I’m 29. I’m getting older, but I think I’ll have a great day today.”
Federer, Wawrinka and Djokovic advance
Roger Federer, 35, won his second match of the tournament, beating American Noah Rubin, 7-5, 6-3, 7-6 (3).
Fourth-seeded Stan Wawrinka advanced to the third round for the ninth consecutive year with a 6-3, 6-4, 6-4 win over former USC standout Steve Johnson. Fifth-ranked Kei Nishikori scored a 6-3, 6-4, 6-3 win over Jeremy Chardy.
Novak Djokovic won his first-round match Tuesday, beating Fernando Verdasco, 6-1, 7-6 (4), 6-2.
In another Tuesday match, Ivo Karlovic defeated Horacio Zeballos, 6-7 (6), 3-6, 7-5, 6-2, 22-20, in a match that lasted 5 hours 15 minutes.