Venus Williams finally made her much-awaited return to the circuit at the Libema Open on Tuesday. However, the 42-year-old’s campaign in the Dutch event came drew to an early close. Swiss Celine Naef ousted Williams 3-6, 7-6(3), 6-2 after two hours and 18 minutes of play.
Williams, formerly ranked no. 1 in the world, had received a wildcard to play the WTA 250 tournament. This is the first event the seven-time Grand Slam champion was contesting since suffering an injury during the ASB Classic in Auckland at the start of the season.
In the match against her 17-year-old opponent, Williams quickly brushed aside rustiness as she clinched the first set and took the lead in the second set following an early break. However, Naef fought back and was not able to regain the break back but also take the second set in the tie-break to send the match into the third.
In the deciding set, things got away from Williams pretty soon that gave her fellow wildcard entrant a huge win in what was her first time playing in the main draw of a WTA Tour tournament. In the second round, Naef will play eighth-seeded American Cathy McNally.
McNally won her opener against fellow countrywoman Katie Volynets 6-2, 6-1. Earlier, fourth seed and defending champion, Ekaterina Alexandrova also began the tournament on a victorious note. Alexandrova won against Evgeniya Rodina 6-3, 6-4.
Australian Kimberly Birrell will be her next opponent. Birrell won her round-of-32 match against Dutch wildcard, Leslie Pattinama Kerkhove, 6-1, 6-4. Sixth seed Bianca Andreescu was made to work hard for her 6-4, 6-4 first-round win.
Turkish qualifier Zeynep Sonmez didn’t quail under the prospect of facing the former US Open champion and bowed out of contention only after an hour and 24 minutes of play. Slovakian Viktoria Hruncakova will be the Canadian’s second-round rival.
Hruncakova defeated Swiss qualifier Susan Bandecchi 6-4, 6-2. Lastly, second seed Liudmila Samsonova and third seed Victoria Azarenka were among those who played and won their first-round matches on Monday. Samsonova took nearly four hours to beat German qualifier Lena Papadakis, 6-4, 6-3.
Azarenka won against Serbian qualifier Natalija Stevanovic, 7-6(5), 6-3. Photo Credit: Libema Open Twitter