Venus Williams plans nothing less than “worldwide domination” with her clothing line, called “EleVen.”
“Oh yes, we have big plans,” the WTA Tour star said Wednesday.
The runways may have to wait, however, as the elder Williams sister shows few signs of wearing down on the tennis court. Venus was impressive in winning her opening match at the Volvo Car Open, taking a brisk 6-4, 6-2 win over fellow American Alison Riske.
The seven-time Grand Slam champ, at 35 the oldest player in the tournament on Daniel Island, avoided the run of upsets and injury that befell some of the Volvo Car Open’s biggest names Wednesday.
No. 2 seed Belinda Bencic, ranked No. 10 in the world, went out in straight sets, and fellow seeds Lucie Safarova, Madison Keys and Sabine Lisicki (the 2009 winner here) also were dismissed. Canadian star Eugenie Bouchard was forced to retire in the third set of her match with an abdominal injury.
No. 10 seed Samantha Stosur, who won here in 2010, and No. 7 seed Sloane Stephens advanced with straight set wins.
All of those upsets could help clear a path for Venus, who already this year added to her career total of 49 WTA titles. She’d love to win No. 50 at the same place she won in 2004.
“I’ve got a tournament win already this year,” Williams said. “So that always makes you pumped.”
Williams seems to have gotten a handle on her Sjogren’s syndrome, an autoimmune disease that can dry out the mouth and eyes and sap strength. She looked plenty strong against Riske, a 25-year-old who is ranked No. 94.
The two traded powerful groundstrokes on a cool and breezy afternoon at Volvo Car Stadium. Riske played the first set to 4-4 before Venus slammed a 111-mph ace to hold, then broke Riske’s serve to take the first set.
That was one of three aces for Venus, who reached 123 mph on the radar gun. She won 65 percent of her first-serve points, and attacked Riske’s second serve, winning 64 percent of those points.
“I think today I was aggressive, which is important for my game, even on clay,” Williams said. “You still want to dictate the points. You don’t want to just loop it back and hope for the best. And a lot of high first-serve percentage was very helpful today. Just trying to do the things that I do and try to do those well with a minimal amount of errors is always super helpful for me.”
Williams said earlier this week that she missed her sister Serena, who is not here this week. But her father Richard was in attendance Wednesday; Charleston apparently is one of the patriarch’s favorite tour stops.
“Yeah, he loves this tournament,” Venus said. “So he was asking me when I was getting here and, you know, making sure that he was all set up. And he actually went to Miami, too. But he now just goes to his favorite events, I guess. He likes to drive to them, so just wherever he’s comfortable now.”
Venus lost her first matches at Indian Wells and Miami, leaving her with some extra time to make the transition from hard courts to the green clay of the Family Circle Tennis Center.
“Since I had an early dismissal in Miami, I had a chance to get on the clay, so that was probably helpful,” she said. “Typically when you play deep, you only have a little bit of time to go into a different surface. I don’t like to change surfaces throughout the year because I think it can lead to injury.
“So it feels good out there. The center court is a lot slower than the practice courts, so that took a little bit of adjusting. I’d never played Alison before, so I had to get to know her game a little bit, and she played really well today.”
With former champ Lisicki out, Venus will face No. 61 Yulia Putintseva in the third round. Venus is 3-0 against the Russian, including a straight-set win earlier this year.
Like Richard Williams, Sloane Stephens loves Charleston. She just wishes her record here was better. The 23-year-old has played here five times, with a main draw record of 1-5 to show for it.
Perhaps her Lowcountry luck will change with Wednesday’s 6-4, 6-3 win over Danka Kovinic, moving her to the third round for the first time.
“Honestly, I can’t think of anything,” Stephens said when asked to explain her lack of South Carolina success. “Like I love this place, I love this tournament. I honestly don’t know why, and it’s very frustrating. But when you find a place you like, you keep coming back no matter what. So I think it’s just one of those places that I don’t have very good luck.”
Stephens, who already has won two singles titles this year and three for her career, had better luck than Bouchard, who was forced to retire in the third set of her match.
Bouchard said she strained her abdomen in her first match here and tried to fight through it Wednesday after splitting sets with Lourdes Dominguez Lino of Spain. It’s the same injury that troubled her last summer.
“I wanted to give it another game in the third set, and when I realized I couldn’t serve faster than I could serve lefty, then I thought I should probably stop playing,” she said. “So it stinks.”
Keys, an American seeded No. 8, fell in three sets to German Laura Siegemund, 6-7, 6-4, 6-4. A finalist here last year, Keys slipped and fell in the second set and finished the second-round match with her left wrist taped.
American wild-card entrant Louisa Chirico continued her fine run with a 6-3, 6-3 blitzing of the No. 4 seed, Safarova. The 15th-ranked Safarova, a finalist here in 2012, has been making a comeback from bacterial infections and reactive arthritis.
“It’s been hard, but each week that I’ve been practicing, I felt better and better,” Safarova said before the match.