Evolving ... Venus Williams. Photo: Justin McManus
VENUS WILLIAMS has a theory. Of course, it has something to do with fashion. ''You have to update. Don't be late. That's one of my mottos,'' said the other sister, talking about a planned revamp of this year's Miami tournament when, really, she could have been referring to her own career. It is almost 20 years since a teenage Venus played her first match on tour. A lot can change in 20 years. ''You don't want to keep wearing the mullet,'' she said, ''when it's not the '80s any more.''
Williams can barely remember the 14-year-old girl with beads in her hair, who won her first match then took a set from world No.2 Arantxa Sanchez Vicario before putting her racquet away and finishing off the school year. So much has happened since: another win, a lot more wins, seven grand slam titles.
Injuries and illness, the latter an auto-immune disease called Sjogren's syndrome that she found out had been sapping her of energy for five years before it was diagnosed. It was what kept her from Melbourne last year.
''I didn't even know what I was doing,'' she said of her teenage self. ''I just thought I had a dream, and thought I could do it.''
Williams was back in the moment on Monday. It took just over an hour for her to push past Galina Voskoboeva and win 6-1, 6-0, not wanting to be on court for a second longer than she needed to be. ''Obviously a win is a win no matter what,'' she said. ''But it's nice when it's more routine.''
She looked strong, fast and powerful, all the things she used to be and reminded herself of the fact during an off season spent trying to ''run, hit balls and get to the gym'', not allowing herself to think about what her illness had taken from her.
She did not look like a lowly No.25 seed. One more win will likely earn her a third-round clash with Maria Sharapova. The second seed didn't drop a single game to Olga Puchkova, and it was a trouble-free day for the seeds, with Agnieszka Radwanska (4), former winner Li Na (6), Sam Stosur (9), Julia Gorges (18), Ekaterina Makarova (19), Jelena Jankovic (22), Klara Zakopalova (23) and Sorana Cirstea (27) to play another day.
Sharapova's win means she has now notched ''double bagel'' wins at all four of the grand slam tournaments. ''I don't think that's very relative to anything,'' the Russian said. ''It's tough to feel completely satisfied … But overall I was happy with the way I started, considering I didn't play any matches coming in.''
Sharapova wasn't willing to look past her second-round match, and nor was Williams, although she was in a more reflective mood. Being sick had not made her a more patient person, she said, although she had learnt to think about the things she could accomplish, not the things she couldn't. ''I felt like I had a great year,'' she said. ''I moved up a lot of spots. I qualified for the Olympics. I won a doubles major and Olympic gold. Gold, gold, gold baby.''
That medal, won with sister Serena, is hidden ''in a sack'' these days, so that should Venus ''become a statistic and lose all my money'' she can melt the gold off the top and get by. ''When you're a young person you just don't think it's ever going to end,'' she said. ''Now … I try and take the best I can of it. When it's over I will be out, and hopefully I won't run out of money and have to commentate.''