Venus Williams (USA) def Svetlana Kuznetsova (RUS) | 63 57 63
A wildcard at this year’s US Open, Svetlana Kuznetsova’s good fortune ended with the release of the 2018 draw. While fellow wildcard and 2-time Finalist Victoria Azarenka drew 20-year-old Viktoria Kuzmova, Svetlana drew 15-year nemesis and 2-time US Open champion Venus Williams. Welcome back to New York.
Truthfully, however, during the Summer – the 2004 champ had already established a pattern of overcoming adversity. After her 1st-Round exit at Wimbledon, Kuznetsova plummeted 60 spots in the rankings, falling to World #128. She responded the best way possible, by lifting the trophy at her next event. She won five straight matches in Washington D.C. and captured her 18th career title – her first in over 2-years (Sydney 2016).
While Svetlana rediscovered traction, Venus was sliding the other way. She lost in the 3rd-Round at Wimbledon and fell out of the top-10 for the first time in over a year. Then, early exits in San Jose and Montreal dipped her to World #16 by the start of the Open.
Diverging momentums called for a show-down, and both leaned-in to the moment.
After 2-hours and 55-minutes, the smoke finally cleared with Venus Williams moving on to the 2nd-Round. It was a punishing match from ball-up – loaded with deuce games, extended rallies and heat indices in the triple digits.
Bottom line: Venus had to aggressively exorcise some demons to pull-out the win
In command during the first and for most of set-2, Venus completely fell apart (up a break 5-4) serving for the match. At 15-0, she double faulted, lost four straight points, and simply handed the momentum to Kuznetsova.
Svetlana ran with it and earned a love hold to take the lead 6-5.
Serving to force the tie-break, Venus gave-up set-2 with another double fault – and we were on to a decider.
While a crushing blow for the mere mortal, 38-year-old Williams was unfazed. She started the third with 2-breaks and a 3-0 lead before the first changeover, and ultimately earned the win on the strength of her return.
Struggling with her own serve, the Venus Williams game plan was simple:
- Pound returns on both serves
- Move Kuznetsova from side to side, keeping her off balance
- Finish at the net when necessary – which was often and artistic
It worked. By the end of the match, Venus had earned 24 break opportunities to Svetlana’s 15. Her 8 breaks bested Kuznetsova’s 6. It was gloves-off, hard-nose, grinding tennis – and a hell of a match to see live on Day-1 of a Slam.
HEAD TO HEAD: Venus Williams vs Svetlana Kuznetsova
NEXT: Camila Giorgi -40- (ITA)
In Round-2, Venus Williams faces the dangerous Camila Giorgi, who quickly defeated American Whitney Osuigwe earlier in the day. Giorgi has played head-strong all season. Injured the last half of 2017, she started the year ranked outside the top-80, forced to qualify at five of the 17 events she entered. Last month, she earned a career-best Grand Slam run, reaching the Wimbledon Quarterfinals.
Venus will have to play top-shelf tennis to fend off the surging Italian. The two have played once before, in the 3rd-Round of the 2015 Australian Open. Venus won in a decider, after they split two tight sets: 46 76(3) 61.
 Venus Williams -16- (USA)
In 1997, as an unseeded 17-year-old, she went on to reach her first Grand Slam Final here in the newly dedicated Arthur Ashe Stadium. 21 years later, she owns 73 Singles, Doubles and Mixed Doubles titles – including seven Grand Slam Singles titles; and with sister Serena, 14 Grand Slam Doubles titles. She is a 4-time Olympic Gold Medalist, a Fed Cup Champion, and in 2002 became the first African American woman to ascend to World #1 in the Open Era. A Finalist last year at both the Australian Open and Wimbledon – From Palm Beach Gardens, Florida – Please welcome 2-time US Open Champion, Venus Williams.
Svetlana Kuznetsova -102- (RUS)
This 33-year-old US Open Champion won her first Grand Slam Singles title here in Flushing back in 2004. Three years later, she reached the US Open Final again; and in 2009, captured her second Grand Slam Singles title at Roland Garros. A 3-time Fed Cup Champion, she’s also an accomplished doubles player. She captured the Australian Open Doubles title twice, and has reached the Final of all four Majors. Earlier this Summer, she reached her 41st career Singles Final, capturing her 18th career title at the US Open Series Event in Washington D.C. Ranked as high as #2 in the world, she is competing in her 16th US Open. From Russia – Please welcome 2004 US Open Champion, Svetlana Kuznetsova.