In an attic somewhere in Palm Beach Gardens in Florida there is a painting of Williams. The canvas reveals that the hair around the temples is turning a distinguished shade of grey while around the eyes there is evidence of laughter lines and a little puffiness above the cheekbones.
Meanwhile, on court, “Miss W” remains trapped in time and forever young. There can be no other explanation for it.
No matter that Williams is now 32 and coping with the problems of Sjorgen’s Syndrome, a debilitating condition of the immune system, she looks as good as ever. And as she got her Australian Open campaign under way with a the straight-sets splattering of Voskoboeva, she actually looked better than ever.
This was just the sort of start Williams wanted: a 60 minute workout to find her range, calibrate her weaponry and generally get a feel for her surroundings.
Voskoboeva soon realised her place in the scheme of things and apart from the first game she had the temerity to hold serve she did not trouble the former world No.1 unduly. There was the odd service return on a second serve that found the mark and a few clattering forehands, but they were never enough to threaten the draw sheet with an upset. She does love to wallop that forehand, does Miss Voskoboeva; it is just a pity she doesn¹t seem willing to try any other shot to go with it.
Williams for her part looked cool, calm and collected. There was the odd wry smile or shake of the head when a shot went astray (What? Only two set points instead of three? Tsk, tsk!) and there was a slightly furrowed brow when a couple of first set points slipped from her grasp but come the third a few moments later, she got the result she was after. After 31 minutes, she was a set to the good and cruising.
With the tennis taking care of itself, it was time to turn the attention to Williams’ many other talents. Her outfit was a Williams design, a colourful little number with big splodges of pinks and purples on a white background. She claimed the design on the material was inspired by
"watercolours” (not, methinks, those of JMW Turner) but there was a distinct hint of livingroom curtains about the overall look. As for the whole ensemble, think 1950s housewife meets
tennis club dress code and you are pretty much there.
Over on the other side of the net, Voskoboeva was not having a good day. After losing nine games on the trot, her patience was wearing thin and, miffed and tetchy, she vented her spleen by bouncing her racket. Sadly, she got that wrong too (she missed it on the rebound).
And then she lost her 10th consecutive game. There was pattern forming here: Voskoboeva hits the ball, Williams wins the point. Williams hits the ball; Williams wins the point. It was no wonder that Serena Williams, sitting courtside to offer a little sisterly support, had long since stopped watch the match and was chatting and giggling happily with those around her.
A couple of games later and Williams was safely through to the second round and Voskoboeva had been put out of her misery.
"I don¹t think my opponent played as well as she wanted to,” Williams said politely, revealing a hitherto unknown talent for understatement. As for her own performance, there were 21 winners to 10 errors, a 70 per cent first serve accuracy rating and a couple of aces for good measure. As stats go, there were not eye-poppingly brilliant but they were more than enough to bring a smile to the face of the world No.26.
And as Williams skipped happily towards her appointment with either Petra Martic or Marina Erakovic on Wednesday, that painting in Palm Beach Gardens developed another wrinkle.