Former world number one Venus Williams played her first singles match in almost a year at the Citi Open on Monday night, but Canadian qualifier Rebecca Marino defeated the seven-time Grand Slam singles champion 4-6, 6-1, 6-4. via a 1 hour 52 minute return.
Here are three takeaways from Marin’s come-from-behind victory and Williams’ return to singles:
First Strike Control Key: In a clash between two excellent servers, the decisive factor was the superiority of the first delivery. Williams took a one-set lead by winning nearly three-quarters of her first-serve points in the opening game, where she never faced a break.
However, Marino won 86 percent of her first-serve points in a thrilling second set, showing she can hold her own against Williams’ legendary power game, just as she did in their only previous meeting 12 years ago at the 2010 US Open, where Williams prevailed in two tight sets .
Recent form has helped Marino rise: Marino, 31, made a comeback on her own after an absence from the tour between 2014 and 2017, and her results have steadily improved to the point where she broke into the Top 100 for the first time since 2014 last month.
The Canadian veteran’s recent successes helped in the final set, where Williams took a 4-1 break lead. Marino cleaned up her unforced errors in the third set and found well-placed serves at critical points, including a break at 4-3, to take the final five games.
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On the other side of the coin, Williams struggled with double faults on her singles return. Williams had 13 double faults in the match, including four in her final two service games.
Despite the loss, Williams is back in the mix: Williams, 42, has not played a singles match since losing to Hsieh Su-wei in the first round in Chicago last August and the American legend is currently unranked.
But Williams did not come to the Citi Open completely without match experience. Williams teamed up with Jamie Murray in the mixed doubles at Wimbledon where she won one and suffered an extremely close loss in the second round. one of the best matches of the tournament.
At both Wimbledon and Washington, Williams showed good form and fitness against solid players, even in her losses. Williams will now move on to the WTA 1000 events in Toronto and Cincinnati, where she will be entered over the next two weeks.
“Just a little rusty,” Williams said afterward. “I really got into good positions in the third set. I’m just trying to shake off the rust. That’s to be expected. All I can do is play the next tournament and play better.”