Venus Williams overcame Elise Mertens 7-5 3-6 7-6(4) in a marathon first-round match in Rome that lasted three hours and five minutes.
The American, had not played since March and at times the rustiness showed in her game, but it is a testament to her winning mentality that she came through it despite missing a remarkable eight match points.
It looked like it would be easier for Venus when she took control of the deciding set and stormed into a 5-2 lead.
She then established a 40-15 advantage on serve and it seemed certain that the match would be over seconds later. However, the American faltered and Mertens stepped up and saved both match points.
Unsurprisingly, Venus soon had another chance to finish it. But she could not take that one either, and the game got more extraordinary after that.
Venus earned three more match points (taking her total to six) and Mertens had three break points before she finally took her fourth to keep the match going.
The Belgian kept the pressure on the World No.50 by holding serve to make it 5-4. This meant the American had one more chance to serve for the match.
The drama continued. Venus earned two more match points and Mertens saved them both. Then the World No.20 earned one break point and took it to level the set – incredibly – at 5-5.
Briefly, it appeared as though the American would win the set 7-5 when she broke to lead 6-5. However, the Belgian quickly snuffed out that possibility by breaking to love.
Compared to the chaos of the set up to that point, the tie-break seemed routine as Venus took it 7-4. Understandably, she looked very relieved that she had won.
Venus and Mertens share first two sets
The first set was very tight. Venus made a good start and got an early break. Then her level dipped and Mertens broke straight back to make it 2-2.
That exchange of breaks set the pattern for the rest of a rollercoaster set. The American broke to lead 4-2 and the Belgian dragged it back to 4-4. Then Mertens broke to earn a chance to serve for the set, only for Venus to deny her breaking straight back.
The World No.50 built on that break with a hold to put the pressure on the Belgian at 6-5. Unfortunately for Mertens, she succumbed to that pressure with two double faults and a sloppy error to hand Venus a set-sealing break.
Venus looked confident at the beginning of the second set and she raced through her first three service games.
However, despite carving out four break point opportunities during that time, the American failed to take any of them. It ended up costing her, as Mertens broke her in the seventh game to lead for the first time in the set.
The Belgian consolidated that break with a love hold which opened a 5-3 lead. She then capitalised on an error-strewn ninth game from Venus to break again and seal the set. A remarkable decider followed.
Asian Games Champion Qinwen Zheng Reveals Shock Departure Of Coach Fissette
China’s Qinwen Zheng says she feels ‘hurt’ by the decision of her former coach to end their collaboration in order to work with another player.
The US Open quarter-finalist had been working with Belgium’s Wim Fissette in recent weeks following the departure of Pere Riba who is now the coach of Coco Gauff. Fissette has a wealth of experience in women’s tennis after working with the likes of Kim Clijsters and Naomi Osaka. However, Zheng says she is now looking for a new mentor.
“I understand his decision, but my family and I feel hurt. Right now I don’t want to talk about this person (Fissette),’ journalist Bendou Zhang quoted her as saying.
Fissette is yet to comment on his departure. He had previously coached former world No.1 Osaka between 2019-2022 and during this period she won two of her four Grand Slam titles. The American-based Japanese player is on maternity leave from the sport and gave birth to her first child in July.
20-year-old Zheng is currently ranked 23rd in the world and won her maiden WTA title in Palermo earlier this year. She is the youngest player from her country to have reached the quarter-finals of a Grand Slam in the Open Era following her run at Flushing Medows. This year she has beaten top 10 players Ons Jabeur and Daria Kasatkina.
Zheng’s latest career milestone is winning gold at the Asian Games on Friday. in the final, she defeated Zhu Lin 6-2, 6-4, in the blistering Hangzhou heat.
“The feeling was incredible,” Zheng said. “I’m really happy about that. That was not an easy match today and also yesterday (in semifinal against Alex Eala). All of them are good fighters.”
It is not clear who Zheng will be working with during the Asian swing.
Daria Kasatkina Criticises Decision To Not Use Roof At Sweltering Pan Pacific Open
Daria Kasatkina has taken a swipe at organizers at the Toray Pan Pacific Open for not using the roof to cover their premier court on Thursday due to the heat.
The Russian played her second round match against Despina Papamichail in temperatures around 30 degrees with the humidity making it feel even warmer. Kasatkina battled to a 6-4, 6-4, win after spending more than two hours on the court. She dropped serve four times in the match but managed to break Papamichail seven times en route to victory.
Speaking on the court following his latest tour win, the world No.13 admitted that she struggled in the conditions and implied that she believed the roof should have been closed to shield the players from the sun. Tokyo, which is where the tournament is staged, has experienced a record-breaking number of ‘extremely hot’ days this year with their autumn season being warmer than usual. Something that some warn could be a more regular occurrence due to climate change.
“We cannot do much about it. We are using the ice towels and some supplements to keep you hydrated. By at the end, you cannot fight with something you cannot control,” Kasatkina commented on the conditions during her on-court interview.
“I think in these kinds of conditions, if you have a roof, better maybe to close it. If you have these opportunities, better to use it than to make players almost die on the field.” She added.
Kasatkina is through to her seventh Tour quarter-final of the season. Awaiting her in the next round will be second seed Jessica Pegula who beat Spain’s Cristina Bucșa 6-1, 6-2, in her second round match on Wednesday. It will be only the second Tour meeting between the two players and their first on a hard court.
Elsewhere in Tokyo, another player to reach the last eight in France’s Caroline Garcia who beat Anhelina Kahlinina 6-4, 6-3. Meanwhile, Anastasia Pavlychenkova defeated Czech Republic’s Linda Noskova 6-3, 4-6, 6-0.
Barbora Krejcikova Does The Double In San Jose
After what has been a challenging past few weeks on the Tour, Barbora Krejcikova has returned to the winner’s circle by claiming both the singles and doubles titles at the San Diego Open.
The world No.13 battled to a marathon 6-4, 2-6, 6-4, win over Sofia Kenin in what was a clash of the former Grand Slam champions. Krejcikova was pushed to her limits throughout the two-and-a-half-hour clash with there being no break in the decider until the final game. It is the second singles title the Czech has won on the WTA Tour this season after Dubai and her seventh overall.
“Normally I wouldn’t be here,” said Krejcikova, who received a wild card to play in the tournament “I really want to thank them (the tournament organisers). It was very special. I really enjoyed my stay here.”
Krejcikova’s run to the trophy has also seen her score wins over Beatriz Haddad Maia and Danielle Collins earlier in the week. She is the first player from her country to win the tournament.
Following on from that triumph, the 27-year-old then clinched the doubles title alongside compatriot Katerina Siniakova. The duo beat Collins and Coco Vandeweghe 6-1, 6-4.
Krejcikova came into San Jose on a four-match losing streak which started at Wimbledon where she was forced to withdraw from her secound round clash due to a left leg injury.
“I came here with not really good statistics after my injury, I didn’t actually win any matches,” she said. “So I just came here and I pretty much was hoping and believing that I could get the first win and go from there. It’s pretty special to be sitting here having won [the title].”
It is only the second time in Krejcikova’s career that she has won both the singles and doubles titles at the same event. The first time she did so was at the 2021 French Open where her partner in the doubles was also Siniakova.
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