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Wincing Williams prevails under U.S. Open lights

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Venus Williams showed some effects of a troublesome knee but displayed enough of her trademark power to beat Italian Roberta Vinci 6-4 6-1 in the opening night match of the U.S. Open on Monday.

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Twice former champion Williams winced after landing on her left leg while striking a swinging forehand volley in the first set but the third-seeded American battled on in her first match since Wimbledon.

“I landed on that leg on the swing volley,” Williams said in an on-court interview, but gave credit to the 65th-ranked Vinci for putting up a good fight and clawing back from 3-0 to tie the first set 4-4.

“I was playing against a tough opponent today. She hits that slice so well. She didn’t make a lot of errors ... so I was really happy to get through after not playing in forever.”

Williams, the top American in the draw since her sister and world number one Serena Williams did not enter the championship due to a foot injury, blasted in 10 aces under the lights on the Arthur Ashe Stadium center court.

“It’s not the same without two Williamses,” Venus told a crowd of nearly 24,000. “I have a lot of big shoes to fill with just one Willliams here.”

She celebrated the opening night occasion by wearing a short black party dress with fringe on the bottom.

“It’s my evening dress,” said Williams about her design. “It’s so much fun wearing lace on the court.”

Williams, who made 12 unforced errors from her backhand side, never looked entirely comfortable in the first set as Vinci moved her around the court.

The consistent Vinci invited Williams to take chances as the Italian made just 12 unforced errors in the match.

But five-times Wimbledon winner Williams lifted her game to close out the first set by breaking Vinci at love in the 10th game and finished the 74-minute match by winning the last five games of the second set.

The 30-year-old Williams will next meet Canadian Rebecca Marino, who beat Ksenia Pervak of Russia in her first-round match.

Reporting by Larry Fine, Editing by Frank Pingue