ASHEVILLE, N.C. — Venus Williams used her 1,000th career singles match to get the United States off to a strong start in its Fed Cup title defense.

Williams defeated Arantxa Rus 6-1, 6-4 on Saturday to give the U.S. a 1-0 lead over the Netherlands on the U.S. Cellular Center’s indoor hard court. The 37-year-old Williams improved her career singles record to 776-224.

“Honestly, I don’t really know about these milestones,” she said. “It’s just great to play the game that I love. I’m not really going for milestones, but then they happen.”

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CoCo Vandeweghe of the U.S. faced Richel Hogenkamp in the second singles of this best-of-five series, in the top team event of women’s tennis.

Serena Williams is set to return Sunday after more than a year away from the game. She and Lauren Davis are to face Lesley Kerkhove and Demi Schuurs in doubles.

Serena Williams gave birth to her daughter Sept. 1 and hasn’t played competitive tennis since winning the 2017 Australian Open while pregnant.

Her sister broke Rus five straight times to overcome a shaky serve. Williams and Rus exchanged service breaks in the first five games of the second set, with Williams grabbing a 3-2 lead. Williams then saved a break point to pull ahead 4-2. They held serve the rest of the way as Williams improved her overall Fed Cup singles record to 20-2.

“I thought maybe a few of my balls were flying a little bit,” Williams said. “It got me a little bit tentative. I think that created some opportunities in the second set, too. Finally, I just had to let go of that thought and just try to hit it hard and deep. Sometimes it looked like they were about to go out, but they landed in, so I was lucky.”

Rus, ranked 124th, struggled with her serve all day.

After holding serve in the second game of the match, Rus wouldn’t win her serve again until she already had lost the first set and was down a break in the second. She had six double-faults, many at inopportune times.

“I was a bit nervous also because you [are playing] against such a great player. In the second set, I started to feel better on the court. I was playing more aggressive, and I had some chances.”