Wimbledon: Venus Williams gets past Elise Mertens in a tough opening round

Venus Williams made the best possible start to her 20th Wimbledon campaign as she withstood the tough challenge of Elise Mertens in the first round, triumphing in straight sets with a scoreline of 7-6, 6-4 after one hour and 39 minutes of play, progressing to the second round for an impressive 18th time in her career.

Williams steals the first set despite losing huge lead

Williams made the perfect start as she came into the match firing on all cylinders, hitting some powerful groundstrokes to get the opening service hold. Being able to overpower her opponent and hitting winners at will, the American converted her fifth break point in the second game as she opened up an early 2-0 lead. Easily holding her serve, Williams put herself in the driver's seat as she consolidated the break with Mertens being in deep trouble. It continued to be one-way traffic for the veteran when she earned yet another break point in the fourth game but failed to convert as the Belgian finally got herself onto the scoreboard. It seemed to give her confidence as she broke straight back in the next game with the help of several unforced errors made by Williams, allowing her to return to contention for the first set all of a sudden.

Elise Mertens returns a serve | Photo: Michael Steele/Getty Images Europe
Elise Mertens returns a serve | Photo: Michael Steele/Getty Images Europe

Williams now found herself in deep trouble when she served at 3-3 0-30, but managed to maintain her composure to rattle off four straight points and narrowly held onto her service game. From then on, both players were solid and consistent on their serves, comfortably holding on to their service games which eventually resulted in a tiebreak to decide the winner for the first set. With the scores at 1-1 in the tiebreak, Williams went on a run from that point onwards as she ran out to a huge 4-1 lead, looking to close the set out. Mertens made an incredible escape from being 3-6 down and facing three set points, with three consecutive unforced errors saving the Belgian from the brink. However, Williams finally managed to close out the tiebreak 9-7 and seal the first set 7-6 after 53 minutes of play, suffering a huge scare in the closing stages.

Williams beats the rain delay and overcomes early deficit

Mertens had an encouraging start to the second set as she held serve in the opening game after she was able to force errors out of Williams, who looked shaky at the start of the set. The American veteran then put in some inconsistent play to get broken in her first service game of the set, allowing Mertens to take the early lead and looked to send the match into a deciding set. However, Mertens was unable to hold onto her lead as Williams broke straight back, sealing the break with a volley winner. The Belgian had the golden opportunity to regain the lead but she wasted two game point opportunities with two backhand errors as Williams got the tight hold of service, staying level in the set.

Venus Williams hits a backhand during today's match | Photo: Michael Steele/Getty Images Europe
Venus Williams hits a backhand during the match | Photo: Michael Steele/Getty Images Europe

The five-time Wimbledon champion took the lead in the second set for the first time, breaking Mertens’ serve to 15. Williams then won her third consecutive game as she sealed it with an ace, looking the favourite to close out the win. After an exchange of service holds, Mertens found herself serving to stay in the set at 3-5. With the scores being stuck at deuce and the Belgian already saving a match point, a rain delay came into play out of nowhere as it interrupted play for about 30 minutes. After play resumed, Mertens held her serve and forced Williams to serve the match out. Without facing any troubles, Williams put in some strong serves and served out the match in comfortable fashion, sealing the win after 99 minutes of play.

Stats Corner: Williams the more solid and consistent of both

Both players had a positive difference of 2 in their winners-unforced errors count, with Mertens being 32-30 and Williams being 23-21. Double faults proved costly as the Belgian served nine double faults, much more than Williams’ three. The American won 72 percent of her first-serve points, a little better as compared to the 64 percent Mertens won. The second serve points were what both players failed to excel at as Mertens only managed to win a mere 44 percent of those points, but Williams only won just 10 points off her second serve throughout the match. Perhaps, the most crucial factor was the number of net points won as Williams charged towards the net 27 times in the match, winning 22 points there, as compared to just six points won by her lower-ranked opponent.