BIRMINGHAM, Great Britain - Five-time Wimbledon champion Venus Williams charged into the quarterfinals at the Nature Valley Classic without dropping a set after taking down Wang Qiang, 6-3, 6-2 in the second round.
Competing with a wildcard in her first grass tournament outside of Wimbledon since 2012, Venus fired 19 winners and broke Wang four times to make her way into the quarterfinals.
“I think just the focus today was really there. That was great,” Venus said in her post-match press conference. “My opponent, she also played well, too. It was nice to be able to have answers for her play. I had some fun on the court.”
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As her reward, Venus books a fascinating clash against reigning French Open champion Ashleigh Barty, the No.2 seed, in the next round.
Venus’ long grass court expertise was on full display on Thursday on Ann Jones Centre Court. She was solid from the start: her serve was nearly impenetrable - she dropped just two points across her opening three service games - and her heavy groundstrokes had Wang firmly under pressure.
The American took advantage of a slow start by the Chinese No.1 and went up 3-0 with an early break, converting on her fifth break chance of the game. That lone break would prove to be decisive, as Wang began to settle into the match and found her rhythm. The last six games went to the server, and Venus comfortably served out the opening set.
The second set unfolded in a similar pattern as Venus continued on a tear, pouncing on every short ball from Wang and shutting down points at the net. After an early struggle to break at 1-0 - she needed another five break points as Wang put up a mammoth effort - Venus reeled off the next four games in a row for a daunting 5-0 lead.
But with Venus serving for the match, Wang found a second wind to avoid the dreaded ‘bagel set’, breaking the former World No.1 and consolidating to make it 5-2. Venus wouldn’t be denied, however, and she served it out on the second time of asking to close the match after an hour and 12 minutes.
Into her third WTA quarterfinal of the year - after Auckland and Indian Wells - Venus will take on the newly-minted French Open champion Barty in her next match. Barty owns the head-to-head record between them, claiming victory in their only previous meeting at Cincinnati in 2017, 6-3, 2-6, 6-2.
“[Barty] is playing well on the grass, too,” Venus acknowledged. “It's not easy to get to these quarterfinals. No match is easy. So I'll have to have a feel for it tomorrow and see what works.”