Venus Williams battled into the second round of the US Open on Monday, beating Svetlana Kuznetsova 6-3, 5-7, 6-3 in a duel of 30-something former champions.
"It's not an easy match when you're playing a former US Open champion in the first round," said Williams, making her 20th appearance at Flushing Meadows.
The 38-year-old American, seeded 16th, counts US Open titles in 2000 and 2001 among her seven Grand Slam victories.
But her preparations for this year's edition were hindered by a right knee injury that saw her withdraw from Cincinnati.
"My preparation for the tournament wasn't ideal but I think I got a lot of balls out here to hit, so hopefully that helps," said Williams, who triumphed after 2 hours 55 minutes in steamy conditions on the Arthur Ashe Stadium.
She had a chance to close things out much sooner, but was unable to convert two match points against Kuznetsova's serve at 5-3 in the second set as the Russian, the US Open champion in 2004, won three straight games to force a third set.
"It seemed like she played her best whenever I was up," Williams said. "It wasn't easy to close that match out."
Williams raced to a 3-0 lead in the decider, and again found herself with a chance to close it out against Kuznetsova's serve.
Kuznetsova saved two more match points before Williams sealed the win with a forehand winner.