NEW YORK - Venus Williams started with a soft forehand, shifted to a gentle backhand and even tried to blow away a most pesky opponent. She kept moving from sideline to sideline, yet still couldn't shake free at the US Open.
Not until three attendants came on to the court to help did Williams escape what was bugging her on Monday — a bee that wanted to land on her racket.
"The bee was a challenge," the two-time Queen Bee of Flushing Meadows said after beating Kimiko Date-Krumm 2-6 6-3 6-3 in the first round.
The prematch buzz was all about the ages of the players. Williams is 34, Date-Krumm is 43 and their combined 77 years was believed to be the oldest for opponents in a women's Grand Slam pairing, the WTA said.
Earlier in the match, a bee interrupted Date-Krumm's serve. She refused to kill it, and instead parried the insect.
Then with the 19th-seeded Williams ahead 3-0 in the final set, a bee flew close to Williams as she prepared to serve.
"I came up with a strategy to follow her example," she said.
Williams last won the US Open in 2001 and has been slowed by health problems in recent years. But she beat younger sister Serena this month in reaching the final at the Rogers Cup in Montreal.
Date-Krumm turns 44 next month, and fell to 0-4 against Williams in a match that lasted over 2 hours.
Down 5-0 in the third set, Date-Krumm won three straight games.
At deuce in the final game, she missed an easy shot and crouched at the net for a full 10 seconds, thinking about the chance that got away.
Williams won the match on the next point, and Date-Krumm met her with a smile when it was over.
"Every day, sometimes I'm thinking. If I have a big injury someday ... it may be difficult to come back. Still I have passion. ... So I'm still here," she said.