*Venus Williams, 31, hadn’t competed in a WTA tournament since pulling out of the US Open in New York last August despite a first round win.

The former world no. 1 and Serena’s elder sister was diagnosed with an autoimmune disease, Sjorgren’s Syndrome (causes bouts with extreme fatigue), which sidelined her until she could get a handle on her condition.  She returned to action in Miami this week at the Sony Ericsson Open and it appears the rest served her quite well.

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Venus opened the match in unstoppable fashion, stunning her opponent, Kimiko Date-Krumm, 6-0 (aka a bagel in tennis speak) in the first set.   Date-Krumm, 41, gave the 7-time grand slam champion a run for her money on the Eastbourne grass at last year’s Wimbledon tournament (Venus’s strongest surface), but couldn’t find a foothold against a curiously in-form Venus in the first set in Miami.

The second set proved more of a challenge, as Venus was broken in the first game, but she quickly recovered, breaking Krumm right back, then trading off games until breaking her Japanese contender’s serve in the 8th game.  Williams went up 5-3 with the break and confidently served out the match, 6-0, 6-3.

“I mean, just to be in this tournament is a huge win for me. Just to be here is a win,” Williams said. “You know, that’s what I told myself going in, that this is a win. I have nothing to lose. Just, you know, to gain. Just to get back at this level is a win for me.”

The Williams sisters have been known for their jaw-dropping resilience when returning to the sport from long absences due to injury or illness, and Venus carried on the tradition with her first-round win over Date-Krumm.  She may be incentivized to put a little extra “umph” in mowing down her opponents, too, in order to stay in the limelight as long as possible to support the relaunch of her clothing line, eleVen.

Meanwhile, Serena Williams is also making her return to tennis at the Sony Ericsson Open.  She hadn’t competed since her untimely exit (downed by Russia’s Ekaterina Makarova) at the Australian Open in January. She won her match earlier today Read the details here.