At 21st US Open, Venus Williams still loves her ‘job,’ wins

              Venus Williams, of the United States, chases down a shot from Zheng Saisai, of China, during the first round of the US Open tennis tournament Monday, Aug. 26, 2019, in New York. (AP Photo/Eduardo Munoz Alvarez)

NEW YORK (AP) — Venus Williams still loves her job. And she’s still capable of doing it rather well.

Playing in the U.S. Open for the 21st time, tying Martina Navratilova’s record, Williams improved to 21-0 in first-round matches at Flushing Meadows by beating Zheng Saisai 6-1, 6-0 in all of 66 minutes in Louis Armstrong Stadium on Monday.

“I was happy with today,” Williams said, “so I’m not going to ask for more.”

Williams is a two-time champion in New York — back in 2000 and 2001 — and owns seven Grand Slam singles titles in all, along with another 14 in doubles. But she’s also 39, had lost in the first round at the French Open and Wimbledon this year and her ranking is down to No. 52. That puts her 14 spots behind Zheng.

Sure didn’t seem that way on this afternoon. Williams dominated from beginning to end, winning twice as many total points, 58-29, compiling more than four times as many winners, 25-6, and two fewer unforced errors than her opponent.

Williams also showed off her big serve, reaching 121 mph, and set up a match against No. 5 seed Elina Svitolina next.

For years, as her ranking has slipped further away from the No. 1 spot she once briefly held, and her results have been less than what they once were, Williams repeatedly has faced questions about whether she was considering retirement. She never really paid any heed to that, often saying that she feels she has more to give to the sport.

And Monday, she sure looked and sounded as if she still does.

“It’s a wonderful job, and it’s all-consuming. So if you don’t love it, it’s really hard to do well at it,” Williams said. “And the fact that I have done well has shown that I have loved it and will love it and I’ll always love it. Even when it’s all over, I’ll still be a tennis player.”