Tennis veteran Venus Williams bounces back from injuries to knock out 16-ranked Veronika Kudermetova at the Cincinnati

Tennis veteran Venus Williams bounces back from injuries to knock out 16-ranked Veronika Kudermetova at the Cincinnati


Seven-times Grand Slam champion Venus Williams says she is now playing at a better level than at the start of an injury-plagued 2023 season after sealing her first top 20 win in four years by beating Veronika Kudermetova at the Cincinnati Open on Monday.

Williams rallied from big deficits in both sets to knock off 16th-ranked Kudermetova 6-4, 7-5 in the first round of the Western & Southern Open.

The 43-year-old’s hopes of competing in the Australian Open in January were dashed after she suffered a hamstring problem at the rain-hit Auckland Classic and she only returned in June having decided to skip Roland Garros.

The seven-time Grand Slam champion improved her match record this year to 3-5. She came in ranked 533rd. She trailed 4-1 in each set but fought back each time, converting six of nine break points in the match. She also endured two rain delays.

“I just kept telling myself, ‘I just want to win this point — not the match, just one point,’” the 43-year-old Williams said. “When you break things down like that, big problems become small problems. That’s how I did that.”

Williams, who injured her right knee during her Wimbledon defeat to Elina Svitolina last month, said she was happy to get past world number 16 Kudermetova in Cincinnati after rain interrupted the contest.

“I think I’m at a better level than I started the year, to be honest,” Williams told reporters.

“I was actually worried about the rain delay, because I’m traumatised by Auckland and all those rain delays and getting injured after that, cooling down and changing serves, going in. I’m like ‘Oh my God I can’t let that happen again to me’.”

Williams, currently ranked number 533, overcame deficits in both sets to bag her first tour win since beating Camila Giorgi in the Birmingham first round and said playing more regularly had helped her build momentum.

“My serve is better. My second serve is better. It’s really about playing matches. You can’t replicate it. Especially after you take a large amount of time off,” Williams said. “You have to keep putting yourself in that position to just play. So that’s really where I am right now. I’m fine game-wise, but playing matches is a different ball game.”

Williams had lost her last 10 matches against top-20 players since beating then-No. 5 Kiki Bertens in 2019 at Cincinnati. Another American veteran, 2017 US Open champion Sloane Stephens, beat Elisabetta Cocciaretto 7-5, 6-2. The start of the match was delayed 2 hours, 44 minutes.

“There’s a lot of adversity,” Stephens said. “You manage it the best you can. It’s tough for everyone.”

The 30-year-old Stephens will face defending champion and No. 6 seed Caroline Garcia in the second round.

On the men’s side, No.12 seed Felix Auger-Aliassime beat Matteo Berrettini 4-6, 6-2, 6-3. Auger-Aliassime, a Canadian who reached the U.S. Open semifinals two years ago, improved to 3-8 over his last 11 matches.

  • A Tell / Reuters / AP report
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