16th seed and two-time US Open champion Venus Williams started her 2018 campaign with a thrilling victory on Monday afternoon, with the American battling past another former champion in Russia’s Svetlana Kuznetsova to seal a huge win in New York.
The ten previous meetings between the two had been split evenly, though the Russian was many people’s pick to win this considering the below-par form the 2000 and 2001 champion has shown this season, and considering that fact that Kuznetsova, who has had major injury problems this year, had shown good form with a run to the Citi Open title in the past month.
However, though she did lose a huge second set lead, it was Williams who was able to consistently bring her best tennis today, with the American winning 6-3, 5-7, 6-3 in two hours and 56 minutes against the women who claimed the title in 2004.
Williams holds on to claim battle of former US Open champions
It was Kuznetsova who got off to the best starting, breaking for a 2-1 lead, though Russian was unable to hold on to that advantage as Williams responded strongly, pulling through four tight games to go 5-2 up. The American had looked good throughout the whole set, and saved two break back points at 5-3 to claim the opener.
Williams broke early on in the second set, and when she secured the double break for a 4-1 lead it seemed that she would cruise to victory. However, Kuznetsova secured a break back for 4-2, and then saved two match points on her serve before breaking back again for 5-5. The Russian controlled the final few games, with a Williams double fault handing her the set.
The American took a break after the end of the second set, and that proved to be a huge turning point as she quickly took a double break lead at 3-0, though three consecutive breaks saw Kuznetsova close the gap to 4-3. However, Williams was able to hold to go just a game away from victory, and converted a fifth match point to break and seal a thrilling win on the Arthur Ashe Stadium.
It was by no means an easy clash for the American, though 48 winners helped her reach the second round at her home Grand Slam for the 20th time, maintaining her record of never losing a first round match here. Williams could have another tough match against Italian Camila Giorgi next.