After that breakthrough run in Melbourne, where she finished runner-up to Naomi Osaka, Brady had lost her opening match at three straight tournaments in Doha, Miami and Stuttgart.
“I was really excited to play Venus,” she said afterwards. “She’s such a legend of our sport. When I saw the draw, I was like, 'Okay, that's awesome, what a great opportunity to play such a legend.'”
After a shaky start on serve for both players, Brady began to pull away. From a break down at 2-1 in the first set, she won six games in a row to build a 6-2, 1-0 lead. The momentum shifted from there, though, as Venus held to stop the streak, then broke and held again to open up a 3-1 advantage.
Brady got the break back, and back on serve at 4-all, it looked like the set could have gone either way. A clutch hold from Brady in the next game—in which she fought off three break points—put her ahead 5-4, and she snuck out one last break to close it out, clinching the win when Venus hit her fourth double fault of the day.
“I battled,” Brady said. “It wasn’t easy, but I’m happy I came out with the win.”
In the end, it was all about the errors—the two weren’t far off in terms of winners, Brady beating out Venus in that category, 19 to 14, but Venus had almost twice as many unforced errors, 27 to 15. And while Brady was 6 for 11 on break points, Venus converted just 3 of her 13 break opportunities.
Venus is a former finalist in Madrid, finishing runner-up to France's Aravane Rezai in 2010.
Brady was asked afterwards about playing in front of fans again in the Spanish capital.
“Oh, it’s amazing playing in front of fans,” she replied. “It’s been a while. We played in Australia in front of fans. And to come here and play in front of fans, you know, it means the world to me. Thanks to everyone who came out and supported me, and hopefully you come to my next round!”
Brady’s next opponent is also a Grand Slam champion: 2017 French Open winner Jelena Ostapenko.
Overall the Americans went 2-4 in Madrid on Friday—the other winner being a standout Brady halted in Melbourne, Jessica Pegula. The No. 33-ranked Pegula, who reached her first Grand Slam quarterfinal Down Under, ended the win streak of last week’s Istanbul champion, Sorana Cirstea, 7-6 (5), 6-3.
Meanwhile, Madison Keys fell to Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, 7-5, 6-2; Coco Gauff was up a set against No. 6 seed Karolina Pliskova but ended up going out in three, 5-7, 6-3, 6-2; and 2019 French Open semifinalist Amanda Anisimova led No. 16 seed Maria Sakkari, 6-0, 1-0, but fell, 0-6, 6-1, 6-4.