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Venus Williams wins 2023 debut in Auckland for first victory in 18 months
On Monday at the ASB Classic in Auckland, New Zealand, Venus Williams won a match for the first time in 18 months.
The 42-year-old began her 30th season on tour with a 7-6(4), 6-2 victory over qualifier Katie Volynets in an all-American first-round match.
Williams, currently ranked No. 1,003 on the WTA computer after playing just four singles matches in 2022, hadn't won a match since Wimbledon 18 months ago. A wild card this week in Auckland, she dispatched her 21-year-old compatriot in 1 hour and 44 minutes, overcoming a first-set deficit and a rain delay in the process.
Volynets served for the opening set at 5-4 before Williams broke to love, and was also ahead when a shower suspended play in the tiebreak. Williams won four straight points to turn a 3-2 deficit into a 6-3 lead, and hardly looked back from then on. Though she failed to serve out a second-set bagel, and convert a match point in Volynets' ensuing service game, she made no mistake with her second chance.
Last month, former world No. 1 Williams told fans via her official YouTube channel that she was training hard for the 2023 season—giving no indication that she'll be following sister Serena into the next phase of her career just yet.
"A lot of people have been asking me, ‘Are you gonna play again?’ I love tennis and I would like to play again and I will let you know exactly when,” she said. "I’ve been honestly hitting the court a lot ... I’ve actually been working on a lot of things. Mainly my forehand, my serve, and I’ve been working on slicing."
Auckland has been a happy haunt for Williams in her career, and after beating Volynets, she called the longtime tour stop "one of [her] favorite places" to return to. She won the 2015 title, finished as runner-up in 2014, and reached the quarterfinals in her last visit in 2019. This is the first edition of the ASB Classic in three years as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Williams has also received a wild card for the Australian Open, which begins on Jan. 16. It will be her 22nd appearance in Melbourne, 25 years after her tournament debut.
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