No Fourth Miami Open Title For Venus Williams

Venus Williams (photo: courtesy WTA video)

MIAMI/WASHINGTON, March 23, 2021 (by Michael Dickens)

While nine of the women’s Top 10 players are in action later this week at the Miami Open presented by Itaú in south Florida, which should give a good indication of what direction the women’s tour is headed before it heads for European clay, the first round of the main draw got underway Tuesday at Hard Rock Stadium under mostly-sunny but at times breezy skies.

Among the opening-round headliners – all unseeded – were 40-year-old five-time Grand Slam champion Venus Williams of the United States, making her 21st appearance in Miami, 39th-ranked Dubai finalist Barbora Krejcikova of the Czech Republic, and No. 50 Magda Linette of Poland, who appeared in her first tournament of the year after returning from an injury.

The 79th-ranked Williams has been a fixture at the Miami Open since 1997, when her first-round opponent, Zarina Diyas was just three-years-old. The future Hall of Famer has won three Miami titles (1998-99, 2001) and reached the finals in 2010. She brought a 67-16 record in Miami (including 2-2 against younger sister Serena Williams) into her match against her 89th-ranked Kazakh opponent, having never lost in the first round in her 21 Miami Open appearances. While Father Time and injuries have played a toll on Venus, give her credit for not losing her desire to play. While she lost to Diyas, 6-2, 7-6 (10), in one hour and 28 minutes, Williams will be back this year.

“I’m very happy with the win; it was very tough,” Diyas, who improved to 7-4 in Miami, said during her on-court interview after the victory. “I looked up to Venus when I was little. She’s such a legend. For me, it’s a very special win today. I’m really happy with how I handled the tie break. It was a lot of nerves.”

The elder Williams sister came in making her first tournament appearance since losing in the second round of last month’s Australian Open to Sara Errani of Italy, completing that match after injuring her right ankle and left knee, both which required medical time outs.

On Tuesday, Williams was far from being 100 percent physically fit. Her right elbow was heavily taped and she moved about the court very gingerly at the beginning. Diyas took advantage of this and broke Williams in three of her first four service games to easily win the 27-minute opening set 6-2. Then, she had a chance to serve for the match at 6-5 in the second set, but was broken by Williams to force a tie break.

In her only other match against Diyas, Williams won 7-6 (8), 6-4 at Cincinnati in 2015. However, on this occasion Diyas overcame 22 unforced errors by hitting 17 winners and broke her opponent five times in six tries, while Williams finished with 27 winners and 35 unforced errors. Diyas prevailed on her fourth match point opportunity after squandering opportunities at 6-5 and 7-6 when, on her serve ahead 11-10 in the tie break, Williams netted a forehand return that abrupt end ended an eight-shot rally.

Next, Diyas will face Adelaide International finalist and 11th seed Belinda Bencic of Switzerland in the second round.

Meanwhile, Krejcikova and Linette moved into the second round as expected. While Krejcikova needed three sets to beat No. 73 Anna Blinkova of Russia, 6-1, 3-6, 6-3, Linette was also taken the distance by 16-year-old American wild card Robin Montgomery, ranked 368th, before she advanced with a 6-1, 3-6, 6-0 victory. Next, Krejcikova will meet No. 15 seed Iga Swiatek of Poland and Linette will face No. 17 seed Johanna Konta of Great Britain.

Around Hard Rock Stadium

• No. 48 Nadia Podoroska of Argentina started strongly against 124th-ranked Egyptian wild card Mayar Sherif and won 6-3, 6-1 in 72 minutes to advance against No. 30 seed Ekaterina Alexandrova of Russia.

• No. 66 Sorana Cirstea of Romania took out 443rd-ranked American wild card Katrina Scott, 6-2, 6-2, while 150th-ranked Chinese wild card Wang Xinyu defeated No. 62 Rebecca Peterson of Sweden, 6-2, 6-2. Also, No. 64 Kaia Kanepi of Estonia beat 80th-ranked American Lauren Davis, 6-3, 7-5, and 84th-ranked Dutch lefty Arantxa Rus bested No. 47 Marie Bouzkova of the Czech Republic, 6-3, 6-2.

• No. 52 Shelby Rogers of the United States, improved to 10-0 against lower-ranked opponents with her 6-3, 6-3 win over fellow American Madison Brengle, ranked 82nd. Also, No. 41 Jil Teichmann of Switzerland was leading 6-5 against Spain’s 71st-ranked Paula Badosa when she was forced to retire with a thigh injury, and No. 77 Ajla Tomljanovic of Australia advanced over No. 75 Anastasia Potapova of Russia, 7-5, 6-0.

What they’re saying

Tuesday’s Miami Open results

Wednesday’s Miami Open order of play / WTA

Wednesday’s Miami Open order of play / ATP