New York - Two-time champion Venus Williams, playing her first match in two months, reached the second round of the US Open tennis championships on Monday with a 6-4, 6-3 victory over Russian Vesna Dolonts.
Williams, winner of back-to-back titles at Flushing Meadows in 2000 and 2001, is unseeded this year thanks to the slide in her world ranking to 36.
The American is without a title in 2011 - in fact she's playing just her fourth tournament.
Williams retired after one game of her third-round match at the Australian Open in January with an abdominal injury.
She didn't play again until Eastbourne in June, then had been idle since a fourth-round exit at Wimbledon.
Since then she had withdrawn from tournaments at Toronto and Cincinnati with a viral illness that she said sapped her energy.
"It's always nerve-wracking to play the first match after a layoff in a major," Williams said. "It's not really my first choice at all.
"But I just tried to rely on experience and just tried to get after it. So I was pleased with the level."
Williams looked fit enough on Monday, firing eight aces past the 91st-ranked Dolonts, whose travel to New York from Moscow was disrupted by the airport closures prompted by Tropical Storm Irene.
The Russian didn't arrive in New York until Monday.
"I didn't really know about her circumstances until I walked on the court," Williams said. "I'm not sure what the details are of that, but definitely not ideal.
"But no matter what, you have to come out swinging. I think she did well. I thought she was hitting the corners. Definitely kept me on my toes."
Williams said the toughest part of coming back from a layoff was finding a rhythm in the points. She didn't let that stop her from deploying her usual aggressive style, coming forward when she had the chance.
"My game is built on my serve, and of course, I like to follow it up with a lot of aggressive play," said Williams, who grinned and clenched her fist after firing a service winner past Dolonts on match point. "And it's great to see a lot of those balls land in."
In the second round, Williams will face either Alona Bondareno of Ukraine or Germany's Wimbledon semi-finalist Sabine Lisicki.
She said she thought that despite her recent illness she'd have the stamina to see her through some tougher matches here.
"I think I can do what it takes, but I guess I'll have to see," said Williams, who said she found spending so much time off court "disheartening".
"I do feel like I can play six matches. I need to win them," she said. "No one is more in 'one-match-at-a-time' mode than me now at this tournament."
* Who's your money on at the US Open? Click HERE to bet now with BET.CO.ZA