A blockbuster meeting between two veterans and former Grand Slam champions in the fourth round of the Miami Open saw Venus Williams go against all odds to defeat an in-form Svetlana Kuznetsova in straight sets, earning her first top 10 victory since 2015.
Williams strolls to win the first set
Kuznetsova seemed on course for a break of serve in the opening game of the match as she quickly went up 15-30 thanks to Williams not being able to find her first serves. However, the American then hit in a couple of excellent serves which she dutifully followed up with some good and powerful groundstrokes, clinching her the nervy service hold to start the match with.
Kuznetsova would rue this missed opportunity as she was broken in her opening service game, unable to play catch up to Williams’ dictative groundstrokes as she threw in an unexpected double fault on break point, gifting the early lead to the 36-year-old. The American would then go on to consolidate the break, extending her lead to 3-0. After an exchange of service holds, the next opportunity to break serve came in the sixth game as Kuznetsova conceded two break points to Williams, giving her the golden opportunity to extend her lead.
However, the Russian managed to maintain her composure and held her serve eventually to prevent herself from falling behind even further in the set. Despite so, Kuznetsova was still unable to earn a single break point as Williams’ serve looked to be on fire throughout the set and did not seem to break down any time soon. Serving for the first set at 5-3, Williams successfully did what she needed to do as she comfortably held her serve once more, clinching the first set 6-3 after just 38 minutes of play.
Kuznetsova misses her chances
Playing too passively with this being possibly one of her worst performances of the year, Kuznetsova lost serve in just the third game of the second set as Williams viciously attacked those weak shots of the Russian, taking the early lead in the second set as she looked poised to close the match out in straight sets. Unexpectedly, despite the momentum being with Williams, Kuznetsova played what possibly could have been her best return game of the match as she managed to put on some incredible counterpunching skills to break straight back and return level in the set.
Three consecutive tight service holds to 30 did not separate both players on the scoreboard, and Kuznetsova seemed really close to taking the set at 5-4 after holding her serve to love. Many would think that the American would crumble to the pressure while serving to stay in the set, but she proved everybody wrong as she eased to an easy and straightforward service hold which extended the second set into an 11th game.
Williams then served to stay in the set for the second straight occasion, but this time she faced some huge problems as she allowed Kuznetsova to earn two major set points in the game. Nevertheless, Williams came up with some excellent serving on the first set point by hitting a well-placed ace to return to deuce, before a strong serve which was followed by a backhand winner to save the second.
Kuznetsova was really passive on her big chances, and that often backfired as seen in this game. The Russian then looked poised to win the second set for the first time in the match as she quickly jumped out to a formidable 4-1 lead in the tiebreak. However, she lost her way from then on as she lost six straight points all of a sudden, falling 4-7 in the tiebreak to gift the match to Williams.