STANFORD -- Venus Williams is 34 now and no longer ranked in the top 10, let alone top 20. But the older half of the legendary sister act has no plans to walk away from the sport she learned on Compton's public courts.

If Tuesday night was an indication, why would she?

Playing for the first time since Wimbledon, Williams, now ranked 25th, dusted off a little rust and powered her way to a 6-3, 6-2 opening-round victory over Paula Kania at the Bank of the West Classic.

Williams will next play fourth-seeded Victoria Azarenka on Thursday.

"It's always interesting coming back after not playing for probably about four weeks," Williams said. "I think it was a nice adjustment out there."

Venus Williams, of the United States, celebrates her win against Paula Kania, of Poland, following their tennis match at the Taube Family Tennis Stadium in
Venus Williams, of the United States, celebrates her win against Paula Kania, of Poland, following their tennis match at the Taube Family Tennis Stadium in Stanford, Calif., on Tuesday, July 29, 2014. (Josie Lepe/Bay Area News Group) ( Josie Lepe )

Speaking to reporters about an hour after the final point, Williams seemed in good spirits as she returned to the tournament where she made her pro debut nearly 20 years earlier, when the event was held in Oakland.

"It's great to still be feeling well enough to be playing on this tour," Williams said. "It's much more competitive than 20 years ago. It's been a long journey. I don't know at that age if I would have envisioned that I would still be playing. But I am glad I am because you get one shot at it and then you fade to gray somewhere, someone else is better."

At times Tuesday, it was classic Venus as the lanky veteran with seven Grand Slam singles titles on her résumé chased down shots over her head and turned them into winners and dialed up extra velocity every time she needed a big serve.


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"When I really want the point, that's when I start to serve a little bit harder," Williams said.

Williams, who last won a Grand Slam singles tournament six years ago, started a little slow against her 181st-ranked opponent, saving two break points to take a 2-1 lead in the first set. She went on to win the set and then broke Kania's serve in a marathon opening game of the second set.

Williams finished with seven aces, won 80 percent of her first serves and saved all seven break points she faced.

When it was over, she was asked how long she planned to continue playing.

"Well, as long as I am good and I am running pretty fast," she said. "If I get slow and I am terrible, then I'll stop. I am not having kids right now, it seems. I don't have any husbands telling me what to do. I don't have to argue every day. For me, it's easy to keep playing tennis."

And although her ranking has fallen, Williams still aims to hold a Grand Slam trophy once again.

"That's what I play for," she said. "I am not playing for just to hopefully win a few rounds, show (my) face and song and dance."

Williams' younger sister, Serena, headlines the Bank of the West card Wednesday night in her first match since her infamous illness at Wimbledon.

Asked about the bizarre scene in the doubles match that was halted after three games, Venus Williams, her sister's doubles partner, said, "I shouldn't have let her play. It was just a tough situation for both of us."

Earlier Tuesday, Spaniard Garbine Muguruza, a French Open quarterfinalist, defeated defending Bank of the West champion Dominika Cibulkova 6-2, 4-6, 6-2. Cibulkova, the sixth seed, is ranked 12th.

Stanford's Carol Zhao advanced when Belgium's Yanina Wickmayer withdrew early in the second set with what officials called a viral illness. Zhao, a qualifier, led the match 6-2, 1-0 when it ended.

"I was mostly focused on my own game," Zhao said. "I didn't really know what was happening until she decided to retire. I hope she recovers quickly."

Ana Ivanovic, a former No. 1-ranked player, will be Zhao's next opponent. Ivanovic, now ranked 11th and seeded fifth this week, moved into the second round with a 7-6 (2), 6-1 victory over Sabine Lisicki, avenging a loss to the German at Wimbledon.

"I was really happy that I stayed composed after I got down in the first set," Ivanovic said.

RESULTS, SCHEDULE

Tuesday's key matches
Ana Ivanovic def. Sabine Lisicki 7-6 (2), 6-1
Venus Williams def. Paula Kania 6-3, 6-2
Wednesday's key matches
Varvara Lepchenko
vs. Agnieszka Radwanska,
1 p.m.
Serena Williams vs. Karolina Pliskova (night session, not before 7 p.m.)
Wednesday's TV: 1-5 p.m., 7-10 p.m., Tennis Channel