Venus Williams had not played much winning tennis since capturing her 49th WTA title in February.
She was more than ready to show off her game at the Volvo Car Open on Wednesday.
The third-seeded Williams used her powerhouse serves and crisp groundstrokes for a 6-4, 6-2 victory over fellow American Alison Riske. Williams advanced on a day when several other top seeds were upset at the year’s first clay-court event.
Williams didn’t care what surface she was on, the 35-year-old simply wanted to wipe away bad memories of first-match losses at Indian Wells and Miami since winning a WTA event in Taiwan two months ago.
“I just came into the tournament eager, just ready to go, especially after waiting two weeks,” she said. “So it’s four weeks and only two matches and you’re like, argh. So I usually don’t have that problem.”
Bencic of Switzerland, ranked 10th in the world, was beaten by Russian qualifier Elena Vesnina, 6-1, 6-1. Safarova, a former finalist here, fell to American wild-card entrant Louisa Chirico, 6-3, 6-3. Germany’s Petkovic, the 2014 champion here, lost to Monica Puig of Puerto Rico, 7-5, 6-2. Keys fell to Germany’s Laura Siegemund, 6-7 (3), 6-4, 6-4. Past champion Sabine Lisicki of Germany, seeded 15th, was also ousted.
Other seeded winners along with Williams were No. 5 Sara Errani of Italy, No. 7 Sloane Stephens of the United States and 10th seeded Sam Stosur of Australia.
Williams, the seven-time Grand Slam champion, got off to a strong start at the clay-court event. She had consecutive serves of 121 mph and 119 mph to close out one game in the first set as fans in the stadium court marveled as the ball zoomed past Riske.
Williams, 35, kept up the attack throughout, winning the final four games to advance. She won the final two games without dropping a point. Riske walked to the sideline after a 102 mph ace that put Williams ahead 5-2, then the 25-year-old from Pittsburgh double-faulted to end the match.
“I think today, I was aggressive, which is important for my game, even on clay,” Williams said. “You still want to dictate the points.”
The top seed and defending champion, Angelique Kerber, needed a third-set tiebreaker to escape her opening match Tuesday night over Lara Arruabarrena. Kerber, the reigning Australian Open champion, returns to action at the season’s first clay-court tournament on Thursday.
Eugenie Bouchard, the 2014 Wimbledon finalist, withdrew from her match with Lourdes Dominguez Lino because of an injury to her lower abdomen.
Defending champion Anna Karolina Schmiedlova was eliminated from the first round of the Katowice Open on Wednesday, losing to unseeded Pauline Parmentier of France, 6-2, 6-0.
Parmentier broke Schmiedlova five times and didn’t drop her serve. She will next face Naomi Broady of Britain.
Also, seventh-seeded Timea Babos of Hungary beat lucky loser Jesika Maleckova, 6-3, 7-5 to advance.
In the second round, third-seeded Jelena Ostapenko of Latvia beat Kristyna Pliskova of the Czech Republic 6-3, 6-4, and fifth-seeded Camila Giorgi of Italy came from a set down to beat qualifier Ekaterina Alexandrova of Russia, 4-6, 6-2, 6-4.
Giorgi will play ninth-seeded Kirsten Flipkens of Belgium, who defeated Andreea Mitu of Romania 6-1, 6-2. Eighth-seeded Dominika Cibulkova of Slovakia made the quarterfinals by beating Elizaveta Kulichkova of Russia, 6-2, 7-5.