February 10, 2018 / 9:40 PM / 6 months ago

Tennis-Venus gives U.S. lead against Netherlands

Feb 10 (Reuters) - Venus Williams gave holders United States the perfect start in their Fed Cup World Group opener against the Netherlands with a 6-1 6-4 defeat of Arantxa Rus in Asheville on Saturday - her 1,000th match as a professional.

With sister Serena watching on from the sidelines after being selected for the team, the American veteran proved too strong for Rus as she put the home side 1-0 ahead.

The Czech Republic, winners in five of the last seven years, ended day one of their tie against Switzerland 2-0 ahead after Petra Kvitova beat Viktorija Golubic in three sets before Barbara Strycova eased past Belinda Bencic.

Venus Williams, 37, was a big favourite against world number 138 Rus but was still relieved to claim her 776th career win.

“It’s never easy and it’s always a challenge,” Venus said.

“On paper, today I looked like I should win but it was a battle and I’m glad to get through that.”

Twenty three-times grand slam champion Serena has not played a competitive match since winning the 2017 Australian Open, since when she has become a mother for the first time.

She is pencilled in for doubles action.

Elsewhere, Belarus were locked at 1-1 with Germany while France and Belgium were also level going into Sunday’s action.

Elise Mertens, an Australian Open semi-finalist last month, gave Belgium the lead with a 6-2 6-1 victory over Pauline Parmentier but Kristina Mladenovic beat Kirsten Flipkens 6-2 6-4. (Reporting by Martyn Herman, editing by Ed Osmond)

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