In one of the most exciting matches so far in 2019, Venus Williams converted the ninth match point in a 7-5, 3-6, 7-6 triumphs over Elise Mertens in three hours and two minutes that pushed her into the second round in Rome.
Venus will now face her sister Serena for the 31st time, the first on the European clay since Roland Garros 2002 and the first in Rome since 1998! This was the third win for Venus over the Belgian and she had to give her best to earn it, winning three points fewer than Elise.
They both had 19 break points and Elise grabbed one more thanks to that second set, coming from a 5-1 down in the decider and saving six match points on the return in the eighth game and extra two at 4-5 to level the score and prolong this dramatic encounter.
Like that wasn't enough, they traded breaks in games 11 and 12 and it was Venus who grabbed a tie break 7-4 after a service winner, seizing the match on the ninth chance and setting the clash against Serena who scored a win earlier today.
Dominika Cibulkova defeated Aliaksandra Sasnovich 6-2, 6-3 in an hour and 30 minutes, losing serve only once and controlling the pace of the match with five breaks of serve that propelled her over the top with a break in the ninth game of the second set.
Katerina Siniakova ousted the 15th seed Qiang Wang 1-6, 7-5, 6-4 in two hours and 31 minutes, losing serve eight times and trailing 6-1, 4-2 before making a comeback, stealing the second set with three straight breaks and delivering four breaks in the decider to prevail.
The Chinese did get broken seven times in a row but she stayed in touch until the very last minutes, scoring three breaks of her own in set number three before falling short in the closing stages of the match. Yulia Putintseva toppled Lesia Tsurenko 6-4, 6-2 in an hour and 23 minutes, taking almost 60% of the return points and delivering six breaks from 12 opportunities.
The match could have gone to both sides in the opening eight games before Putintseva shifted into a higher gear, winning nine of the last 11 games to march into the second round without spending too much time on the court.
An in-form Briton Johanna Konta halted Alison Riske 6-4, 6-1 in an hour and 28 minutes, fending off all six break points and converting four out of ten chances to rule the court and move on with some great tennis in set number two.
Garbine Muguruza made the winning start as well, beating Saisai Zheng 6-3, 6-4 in an hour and 37 minutes after repelling 13 out of 18 break points, stealing more than 60% of the return points for an important win ahead of Roland Garros.