Venus Williams did it the hard way; nevertheless she took the first step towards justifying the wild card awarded to her at this year’s Western & Southern Open by upsetting 12th-seeded Maria Kirilenko of Russia 6-3, 6-7 (5-7), 6-2.
It was Williams’ fourth win over Kirilenko in as many meetings and it would be fair to say that she made heavy weather out of it.
After failing to capitalise in the fourth game of the first set when Williams had Kirilenko down 0-40 in the latter’s service game, Williams eventually went on to break Kirilenko’s serve to take a 5-3 lead, before serving out the set.
Having not managed a break point on her opponent’s serve in set one, Kirilenko broke the Williams serve thrice in the second set but the truth of the matter was that she was always playing catch up.
In fact, Williams twice served for the match at 5-4 and 6-5 in set two, only to be broken on both occasions.
Williams also had the early mini-break in the tie-break only for Kirilenko to come storming back to claim the breaker 7-5 and level the match at a set apiece.
The third set turned out to be a no-contest as Williams broke Kirilenko’s serve twice, the second time when the Russian was serving to stay in the match at 2-5, to advance to the second round of the competition.