Normal service is resumed as Venus dazzles once again

Even a rusty saw can perform an amputation, and Venus Williams duly made short work of some of the more tenuous delusions that have preceded her return to her favourite theatre of operations. She took exactly an hour to hack her way past an obligingly limp first-round opponent, Akgul Amanmuradova of Uzbekistan, 6-3, 6-1. So much for the notion that even the Williams sisters, who have divided nine of the past 11 titles between them, might have ceded the pack a dangerous start this time.

If either sibling is to win this tournament, admittedly, she will have to complete more matches over the next fortnight than they have managed between them since January. Both had blown away the cobwebs at Eastbourne, Serena after an absence of 49 weeks and Venus after limping out of the Australian Open with a hip injury. Serena was beaten in her second match, Venus in her third.

As such, however, the seamless renewal of their dominion here would menace the women's tour with new opprobrium. Few, it seems, can disturb its stagnant waters, unless and until one of these glistening monsters bestir themselves. It would be ungrateful, however, not to acknowledge that to win here, more or less from a bath chair, would confirm them as far too good for many other generations, besides. It is just as well, certainly, that their descent down the rankings, during their absence, did not throw them together. As it is, the No 7 and No 23 seeds can only meet in the final.

Williams was late on Court Two, leaving her victim to stare balefully at the pristine lawn. Amanmuradova is a curiously epicene creature, and her raiment – headband and knee-length shorts – almost seemed a calculated retort to the studied gloss and glamour of the Los Angeles sorority. Sure enough, Williams eventually swayed into view with a handbag over her shoulder, wearing a lace top that fell apart from a button behind her neck. With a racket in her hand, however, she proved very nearly as murderous as ever at 31.

The WTA press notes on Amanmuradova perhaps overstated matters, in disclosing that "no one in [her] family plays tennis". By the time Williams had finished with the world No 97, however, it did not seem quite so malicious. In what proved the final game of the match, in fact, the poor woman had taken to running away from the net, with a comic show of dread, as Williams bore down for the kill.

In fairness, Amanmuradova had contrived a couple of pleasantly audacious contributions as Williams initially struggled for her range. She won one or two points by gambling on rustiness in her opponent's court coverage. And there were times in the first set when a more consistent forehand, or a more powerful backhand, might have exposed that lack of honing. Ultimately, however, Amanmuradova volunteered herself as a docile foil to a champion who looked at home.

For Williams, of course, the resumption of normal service is quite literal. So long as that trusty serve is repeating dependably, it can cover a multitude of sins. There were a couple of occasions when Amanmuradova, crouching low as she held her racket meekly above her head, resembled a First World War infantryman experimentally raising a tin helmet out of the trenches – and then lowering it to find that it now had as many holes as, well, a tennis racket.

Whatever remote corner of her psyche may admit self-doubt – and only her sister seems reliably competent to locate it – it diminishes with her every languid step on to these courts. She hastened through the last five games as though she hadn't been away.

Both sisters, after all, have long shared a somewhat dilettante reputation. As a result, perhaps, their bones may not be creaking quite as they might; and their minds will remain fresher, too. Venus, for instance, has spent some of her enforced absence doing a course in interior design. "I'm just one of those nerds," she said afterwards. "I like school. So I learned a lot about myself off the court, and a lot about life."

The trouble is that very few seem able to follow the lessons. "I think I'm smarter, if anything, than five years ago," she said. "That's the beauty of being able to have a long career – being able to use the experience you learn on the court." Asked whether she might object to being described as "old school", she smiled. "'Old school' has a lot of good connotations, you know?" she said. "But I'm not sure I'd like the style of my game to be old school. I still think I come out with a lot of new moves."

Maybe so. But she is nine years younger than her next opponent, Kimiko Date-Krumm, who ended a 12-year retirement in 2008. After her own, much briefer hiatus, it seems very much as though Venus is again aligning with Mars.

Sport
footballLIVE City face Stoke, while Warnock returns to Palace dugout
Arts and Entertainment
The Doctor and the Dalek meet
tvReview: Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering
Arts and Entertainment
books
Life and Style
3D printed bump keys can access almost any lock
gadgets + techSoftware needs photo of lock and not much more
PROMOTED VIDEO
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Inside the gallery at Frederick Bremer School in Walthamstow
tvSimon Usborne goes behind the scenes to watch the latest series
Life and Style
Silvia says of her famous creation: 'I never stopped wearing it. Because I like to wear things when they are off the radar'
fashionThe fashion house celebrated fifteen years of the punchy pouch with a weighty tome
Arts and Entertainment
Gregg Wallace in Summer's Supermarket Secrets
tv All of this year's 15 contestants have now been named
News
i100Steve Carell selling chicken, Tina Fey selling saving accounts and Steve Colbert selling, um...
Life and Style
A picture taken on January 12, 2011 shows sex shops at the Paris district of Pigalle.
newsThe industry's trade body issued the moratorium on Friday
Arts and Entertainment
Could we see Iain back in the Bake Off tent next week?
tv Contestant teased Newsnight viewers on potential reappearance
News
i100
News
The slice of Prince Charles and Princess Diana's wedding cake and the original box from 29 July 1981
newsPiece of Charles and Diana's wedding cake sold at auction in US
Voices
The Ukip leader has consistently refused to be drawn on where he would mount an attempt to secure a parliamentary seat
voicesNigel Farage: Those who predicted we would lose momentum heading into the 2015 election are going to have to think again
Arts and Entertainment
Cara Delevingne made her acting debut in Anna Karenina in 2012
film Cara Delevingne 'in talks' to star in Zoolander sequel
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Doctor Who Into the Dalek review: A classic sci-fi adventure with all the spectacle of a blockbuster

A fresh take on an old foe

Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering
Ukraine crisis: The phoney war is over as Russian troops and armour pour across the border

The phoney war is over

Russian troops and armour pour into Ukraine
Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

The world’s entire food system is under attack - and Britain is most at risk, according to a new study
Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

Seoul's plastic surgery industry is booming thanks to the popularity of the K-Pop look
From Mozart to Orson Welles: Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

After the death of Sandy Wilson, 90, who wrote his only hit musical in his twenties, John Walsh wonders what it's like to peak too soon and go on to live a life more ordinary
Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

Fears are mounting that Vladimir Putin has instructed hackers to target banks like JP Morgan
Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years

Salomé: A head for seduction

Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years. Now audiences can meet the Biblical femme fatale in two new stage and screen projects
From Bram Stoker to Stanley Kubrick, the British Library's latest exhibition celebrates all things Gothic

British Library celebrates all things Gothic

Forthcoming exhibition Terror and Wonder: The Gothic Imagination will be the UK's largest ever celebration of Gothic literature
The Hard Rock Café's owners are embroiled in a bitter legal dispute - but is the restaurant chain worth fighting for?

Is the Hard Rock Café worth fighting for?

The restaurant chain's owners are currently embroiled in a bitter legal dispute
Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival

In search of Caribbean soul food

Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival
11 best face powders

11 best face powders

Sweep away shiny skin with our pick of the best pressed and loose powder bases
England vs Norway: Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

Lack of Englishmen at leading Premier League clubs leaves manager hamstrung
Angel Di Maria and Cristiano Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

Di Maria and Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

They both inherited the iconic shirt at Old Trafford, but the £59.7m new boy is joining a club in a very different state
Israel-Gaza conflict: No victory for Israel despite weeks of death and devastation

Robert Fisk: No victory for Israel despite weeks of devastation

Palestinians have won: they are still in Gaza, and Hamas is still there
Mary Beard writes character reference for Twitter troll who called her a 'slut'

Unlikely friends: Mary Beard and the troll who called her a ‘filthy old slut’

The Cambridge University classicist even wrote the student a character reference