ROME, Italy - A game from defeat, seven-time Grand Slam champion Venus Williams rallied to outlast rival Elena Vesnina and beat the Russian for the first time since 2015, 6-2, 4-6, 7-5, at the Internazionali BNL d'Italia.
"You just have to think it’s not over until it’s over, and I was happy to walk off court the winner, because it wasn’t an easy match," Venus succinctly stated.
The 37 year old ran away with the final three games to turn the tide and secure victory after two hours and 12 minutes on court.
Champion in Rome nearly 20 years ago and winner of 49 WTA titles, the No.8 seed was playing just her second match of the clay court season after falling to Anett Kontaveit at the Mutua Madrid Open last week. Across the net on Wednesday was Vesnina, who had won their last two meetings and four of their last six.
"I have to keep beating people, but hopefully lucky No.50 will come soon."
The American trailed by a 2-0 break in all three sets, responding particularly well to start as she won the final six games of the opening set. Vesnina remained undaunted as she leveled the match and held for 3-1 in the decider. Venus promptly broke back but was on the ropes once more as the Russian served for the match at 5-4.
With 37 winners to 22 unforced errors, Venus was able to reverse the deficit and book a rematch with Kontaveit, who edged past Svetlana Kuznetsova to reach the Round of 16 in Rome for a second straight year.
"I’ll try to win a few more points than I did last week," she said of her last encounter with the Estonian, "or whatever week that was and try to be more successful."