Naomi Osaka and Serena Williams hail ageless Venus Williams
Naomi Osaka said Venus Williams had an "aura" and Serena hailed her ageless sister as "such an inspiration" after the 40-year-old powered into the Australian Open second round yesterday.
Venus, who played in her first Australian Open in 1998, battled past fellow veteran Kirsten Flipkens 7-5, 6-2 on Margaret Court Arena in her 88th Grand Slam match to ensure she lived to fight another day.
World No. 3 Osaka, who also won comfortably, said the seven-time Grand Slam winner had long been a heroine and she was amazed at her longevity.
"Ironically, I actually interact with Venus more (than Serena)," she said, after sweeping past Russia's Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova 6-1, 6-2.
"I see her smiling so much nowadays, so it's really nice to see. She just has this aura of loving the sport and this infectious energy. I hope that I can learn a lot from her."
Sister Serena, who crushed Germany's Laura Siegemund 6-1, 6-1 in the first round at Melbourne Park as she aims for a record-equalling 24th Grand Slam title, has spent the past few weeks with Venus as her hitting partner.
"She's such an inspiration because she never gets frustrated about her situation, health-wise. She's always looking on the bright side. Then she works so hard. Yeah, she's been great," said Serena, 39.
Venus was diagnosed with Sjogren's disease in 2011, a condition which leaves her weakened. She took up a vegan diet to combat the illness.
In the men's draw, world No. 1 Novak Djokovic blasted Jeremy Chardy 6-3, 6-1, 6-2 in just 91 minutes to kick off his bid for a record ninth Australian Open title in emphatic fashion.
Third seed Dominic Thiem, who lost to Djokovic in last year's final, had to dig deep to beat veteran Mikhail Kukushkin 7-6 (7/2), 6-2, 6-3. - REUTERS