NEW YORK–Venus Williams has a chance to avenge her ouster from the London Olympics at the US Open, but sixth seed Angelique Kerber hopes to send the seven-time Grand Slam champion packing in the second round.
Williams and Kerber advanced with ease in opening matches Tuesday on the Flushing Meadows hardcourts, setting up a rematch of their third-round match earlier this month at the Olympics when Kerber won 7-6 (7/5), 7-6 (7/5).
“For sure it’s not an easy second round,” Kerber said. “Actually I’m the favorite but for me she is the favorite. I will go out there with nothing to lose. I will just try to play my best. I will enjoy it for sure.”
Williams, battling an auto-immune ailment that saps her energy, ousted US compatriot Bethanie Mattek-Sands 6-3, 6-1 in 62 minutes to book a spot against Kerber, who spoiled her dreams of an Olympic singles medal.
“The Olympics was my goal this year. I was expecting to be a little better (at London),” said Williams, who shared doubles gold with sister Serena.
“But at the same time I’m very proud of my results. I don’t know too many other athletes that played under these circumstances.
“I’ve come a long way mentally, emotionally, physically as well. Winning matches is fun, so I’m here to win some matches.”
Sixth seed Kerber, who dispatched Britain’s Anne Keothavong 6-2, 6-0 in 54 minutes, considers herself a threat for her first Grand Slam title after runs to the semi-finals last month at Wimbledon and last year at the US Open.
“For sure I have beaten the great players right now,” Kerber said. “I’m also one of them. That has changed a lot from last year.”
Kerber won titles at Paris and Copenhagen and was runner-up at Eastbourne and Cincinnati, where she snapped a 19-match win streak by Serena Williams that included titles at Wimbledon, Stanford and the Olympics.
But since the US Open draw was made last Thursday, Kerber has been asked by dozens of friends about having Venus Williams back in her path so quickly.
“I really tried not to think about this because I had my first-round match,” Kerber said. “Now it’s for certain. I need my best tennis for sure if I’m going to have a chance against her.”
And Kerber will also have to withstand an Arthur Ashe Stadium crowd that mostly will be backing home-nation hero Williams.
“I think everyone will be against me for sure,” Kerber said. “But I will try to focus on my tennis and not worry about that.”
Williams, ranked 46th, has not won a title since Acapulco in 2010 and has not lifted a US Open trophy since her back-to-back crowns in 2000 and 2001.
She was ousted in the second round a year ago at the US Open and in the first round at Wimbledon last month so just getting past the start boosted her confidence.
“To get back out there in front of the crowd was a wonderful feeling. Once I got on a roll and started playing some good points, I felt very comfortable,” she said.
“I’m just building on the good play. Need a little time to hopefully get back to my same level as before. I’m looking forward to the top 10, all that great stuff. I feel like I have it in me.”