Fourth seed Venus Williams, fresh off her Australian Open run, opened her campaign at the Premier event at St. Petersburg in the second round in a clash against Kristina Mladenovic. In their first ever meeting, it was Mladenovic who was off to a strong start as Williams still looked to be struggling from after-effects of Melbourne with a strapped thigh. The American tried to fight back in the second set but Mladenovic was consistent and clinical and needed just 54 minutes to wrap up the 6-3, 6-1 victory.
Mladenovic cruises past Williams in the first set
The Frenchwoman was a picture of calm in the first set barely showing any signs of nerve as she took on the higher ranked Williams. After a good service hold to start the match, Mladenovic was already all over the American carving out a couple of break points before grabbing the early break with a delightful crosscourt forehand winner. She was barely troubled in her service games and was firing winners from both sides while Williams struggled to find her rhythm. And the fourth seed soon found herself double break down trailing 5-0.
Williams eventually stopped the rot with a firm hold. Serving for the match at 5-1, Mladenovic though hit a couple of errors handing a couple of break points to the American. Williams benefitted from an unfortunate double fault and went on to hold her own game to close the gap to 3-5. On her second attempt to serve for the set, the Frenchwoman kept her nerves and sealed the set with her 15th winner of the match.
Williams’ struggles continue and Mladenovic capitalizes
Mladenovic continued where she left off firing winners and putting immediate pressure on the Williams’ serve. The American saved four break points in a tough service game but eventually succumbed with a wild backhand handing the Frenchwoman the immediate break. Mladenovic consolidated the break for 2-0 and looked to extend her lead straightaway. Williams’ serve was in trouble once again but this time she was able to fend off the Frenchwoman to hold for 1-2. Mladenovic serving, on the other hand, was consistent and Williams could not find a breakthrough.
The American’s woes continued though and Mladenovic capitalized the errors to gain the double break and opened up a 4-1 lead. The Frenchwoman was running away with the match as she further extended her lead to 5-1. Serving to stay in the match, Williams however, gave match point to Mladenovic. And in the end, she lost the set and match on a double fault sending Mladenovic to the quarterfinals.