Thirteen years after her first of four eventual defeats to Venus Williams, Bethanie Mattek-Sands finally came through on the winning end. In a battle between two wild card recipients, Mattek-Sands rallied past the 39-year-old, 6-7 (4), 6-3, 6-1, in the first round of the WTA Premier event in San Jose Tuesday evening.
“I’m really enjoying it. It’s been a tough couple of years,” Mattek-Sands said on-court afterwards. “I think I neutralized Venus’ serve a little bit. I stood back a little more. The reason she’s such a champion is she will come up with some good shots. I wasn’t about to take my foot off the pedal.”
Playing her first singles match since the Australian Open, Mattek-Sands found herself down a set after managing to convert just one of seven break point chances, but maintained trust in the use of her backhand slice and pace variation to create opportunities for net rushes. Though Williams served up 1-0, 40-0 in the decisive set, Mattek-Sands reeled off 10 consecutive points to seize the momentum. She continued forcing Williams to run down drop shots and had no trouble closing out the seven-time major champion, who Mattek-Sands was squaring off against for the first time since the 2012 US Open.
For Mattek-Sands, the victory marked her first singles win in 14 months, when she won her first-round match at 2018 Roland Garros. The Phoenix resident had dropped nine consecutive matches on the singles court, with three coming in January before undergoing surgery for the second time on her right knee. The eight-time major doubles winner will take on No. 6 seed Carla Suarez Navarro in the second round.
Williams was contesting her first match since falling to 15-year-old Coco Gauff in the opening round of Wimbledon.