Serena beats Venus in 31st meeting

Getty Images
2 Comments

LEXINGTON, Ky. (AP) There was zero interaction between the two, not even a furtive glance, when Venus Williams walked past Serena Williams in the Top Seed Open’s warmup area Thursday before their 31st matchup as pros.

Moments later, both headed to the court, each wearing a face covering – Serena sporting a leopard print design, Venus with a light blue medical mask – and were greeted not by the roars of an appreciative audience but basically by silence. Zero fanfare because, well, there are zero fans at the first tennis tournament in the U.S. since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic.

When the match began, though, everything seemed normal: hard hitting, big serving. Serena came back and won the last four games to beat her older sister, Venus, 3-6, 6-3, 6-4 in a second-round match – 22 1/2 years after the first between the two.

Folks could be seen laying on the ground to peek through the opening at the bottom of the fence at the back of the court.

“It definitely felt more relaxed than the stadium at Wimbledon or at the U.S. Open,” said Serena, who now leads the all-in-the-family series 19-12. “But it still is not like the practice courts.”

When it ended, the siblings simply tapped rackets. No handshake or hug, owing to rules about social distancing. Another sign of the times: There was a “Black Lives Matter” stencil on the wall behind the baseline.

It was a back-and-forth contest, with each woman appearing to move out in front until the other pulled even. Make no mistake: The competitive juices were flowing. In the first set, Serena questioned an overrule by the chair umpire that granted Venus an ace.

“This was a real match with real points and real consequences,” said Venus, who owns seven Grand Slam singles titles, 16 fewer than Serena’s 23.

Serena broke right away and led 2-0, but Venus responded by grabbing five games in a row on the way to taking the opening set. Then Serena regrouped to win the second.

With the temperature at 90 degrees and high humidity, the heat rule was in effect, so there was a 10-minute break after the second set. Venus took advantage, leaving the court, but Serena stayed put.

In the third, Venus went ahead 4-2 thanks to a three-game run. Naturally, Serena came back, earning the break for a 5-4 lead with the help of one of Venus’ 11 double-faults and closing it with a running, down-the-line backhand from wide of the doubles alley that capped a 12-stroke exchange.

“I just ran out of time there, is kind of what it felt like,” Venus said.

Venus is 40, and Serena turns 39 next month, making their combined age the highest in a WTA match since 2004, when Martina Navratilova, 47, played Amy Frazier, 31.

The top-seeded Serena next faces American wild-card entry Shelby Rogers, a 6-2, 7-5 winner over Canadian qualifier Leylah Fernandez.

Jil Teichmann advanced to the quarterfinals with a 6-2, 6-2 victory over No. 5 seed Yulia Putintseva. Teichmann now plays CiCi Bellis, who eliminated Jessica Pegula 6-3, 6-2.

Giron cruises in 3rd set, beats Rybakov at Dallas Open

2023 Australian Open - Day 1
Getty Images
1 Comment

DALLAS – Marcos Giron advanced to the second round of the Dallas Open with a 6-4, 6-7 (1), 6-1 victory over Alex Rybakov on Tuesday.

The seventh-seeded Giron, who reached the semifinals of the inaugural event a year ago, responded quickly after failing to close out the second set, winning the first five games of the deciding set.

Rybakov broke his fellow American when Giron was serving for the match in the second set. Then Rybakov won the first six points of the second-set tiebreaker.

“I’m really happy with how I was able to reset in the third and just get back to the game plan from the beginning and elevate,” Giron said. “He played well and served well and kind of hung in there.”

Eighth-seeded Adrian Mannarino of France won the final five points of a first-set tiebreaker and the last four games of the second to beat American Steve Johnson 7-6 (6), 6-2.

J.J. Wolf, the No. 6 seed, had little trouble in a 6-3, 6-3 victory over fellow American Brandon Holt.

John Isner, the fifth seed and unofficial tournament host in his hometown event, played later Tuesday. Like Giron, Isner lost in the semifinals last year.

Sock wins at Dallas Open, set to face top-seeded Fritz

Getty Images
3 Comments

DALLAS – Wild-card entry Jack Sock opened with a 7-6 (2), 4-6, 6-4 victory over Ilya Ivashka at the Dallas Open, setting up a second-round meeting with top-seeded fellow American Taylor Fritz.

Sock broke Ivashka’s serve in the final game to win the match. Ivashka fell behind 2-0 to start the final set but broke Sock to get back on serve.

Down a break early in the second set, Ivashka rallied to force the deciding set after Sock cruised in the first-set tiebreaker.

The eighth-ranked Fritz is back for the second Dallas Open after losing in the semifinals as the top seed in the inaugural edition of the indoor hard-court event last year. Defending champion Reilly Opelka isn’t in the field.