NEW YORK, NY, USA - In a match with an age difference of two decades, 20-year-old No.16 seed Dayana Yastremska defeated Venus Williams in the first round of the Western & Southern Open under the lights on Saturday night at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center, 5-7, 6-2, 7-5.
Facing the elder Williams sister for the first time in her career, Yastremska took the long way to an eventual two hour, 36-minute victory, having been ahead 4-2 in the first set before losing five of the final six games.
After overcoming an injury scare in the first set, in which she rolled her right ankle and took a medical timeout in-between sets, the World No.25 found her range off the ground in a dominant second set, and ultimately put the victory away late in the third set with the match finely poised.
"I'm very happy that I won and same time very sad because I had really good opportunity the first set. But when I twisted my ankle, to be honest, my mind completely went the other way. I started to think just about the pain, how I twisted, and what is going to be next," Yastremska said after the match.
"I really wanted to withdraw after the first game [of the second set] when I lost, but after that, the second game when I was serving, I [said] to myself that I'm not going to withdraw, that I'm going to play to the end. It doesn't matter how it's going to finish, but I have to finish that match. I really have to deal with the pain."
After the first eight games of the decider went with serve, Yastremska was the first to break and first served for the win at 5-4, only to eventually hold off Williams' last stand later in the set.
After the seven-time major champion surged to a break back with ease, Yastemska again won the American's serve in a love game and saved three break points to finally close out the victory.
Following the match, the Ukrainian also revealed that dealing with the injury concerns ultimately helped her to play with more freedom in her swings as the match went on.
"I became a little bit calm, and I started to make more right decisions. I just tried to play more simple," she said. "I wasn't really focusing [on] doing something special, because I knew I could not move really well. I just started to put the ball back to the court, and I think that was the key."
The youngster was the clear aggressor over the course of the opening victory, more than tripling Williams' total of winners off the ground. Despite 60 unforced errors, Yastremska racked up 39 winners and nine aces, while the seven-time Grand Slam champion totaled just 11 winners to 41 unforced.
Though both players had ample break point chances for the match, Yastremska's 40 percent conversion rate (4-for-10) out-did Williams' 21 percent (3-for-14).
"It was a good match. The first round is always a challenge, trying to get your rhythm," Williams said in defeat. "She played well, and just was a little better in the end on the points."
In the second round, Yastremska will take on American left-hander Bernarda Pera, who defeated Great Britain's Heather Watson in three sets earlier in the day, 6-1, 3-6, 6-3.