It was anything but business as usual for former World #1 Venus Williams at the French Open on Sunday. Qiang Wang won their first-round match, defeating Williams in straight sets – 6-4, 7-5. We’ve always seen Venus able to find another gear, elevate her game and find a way through. For brief periods she was able to do that, but the momentum was not hers as Wang’s determination and resistance proved more than
No 2017 Deja Vu
On paper, it looked like the elder Williams should dominate this match with a 2-0 head-to-head result in meet-ups with Wang. In last year’s French first round meeting, Venus won in straight sets. I wouldn’t call it an easy win – 6-4, 7-6 – but Venus did what she does best. She dug in, found her A-game and moved on to the second round. Today, the look was much different. After dropping the first set 6-4, we saw Venus take the first three games of the second set with precision, nearly error free. All credit to Wang, she held serve in the fourth game to get on the board. From there, it was cruise control and Williams won only two more games. Wang’s dominant forehand allowed her to take control of the points, eliminating Williams in straight sets.
What Made the Difference
Neither player can be credited with a spectacular serving game. Each had a 59% first serve stat. Protecting the first serve was also a level playing field – Wang at 69% of the points won to Williams’ 68%. Where the difference came was Wang’s ability to capitalize on second serve. She won 60% of her second serves, compared to Venus’ 45% – ouch! Wang’s ability to pounce on any ball left short saw Williams wrong-footed, and scrambling to regain control of the point.
Venus Remains in the French with A Doubles Wildcard
For those of you mourning Venus’ defeat, worry not. The savvy sisters received a wildcard from tournament organizers for Doubles. But, unless they are on their game, Venus might face elimination. The competition will be fierce, and they’ll need to move through top talent in the form of Bethanie Mattek-Sands & Latisha Chan (Doubles World #1), Jelena Ostapenko & Elena Vesnina, and Miami Open winners Ashleigh Barty & Coco Vandeweghe.