CINCINNATI, OH, USA – Venus Williams showcased her tactical craft, determination and skill to overcome Donna Vekic and move through to the quarterfinals of the Western & Southern Open for the first time since 2012 with a 2-6, 6-3, 6-3 victory.
Supported by the stands by sister Serena as well as a boisterous crowd, Venus took her career record against the Croat to 2-0, adding to a victory chalked up at Wimbledon 2016, with a 124-minute success.
Although there were signs of rust following her marathon victory over defending champion Kiki Bertens as she lost the first set, the 39-year-old stormed back in the second thanks to some shrewd tactical adjustments then closed out the decider.
"I'm pretty pumped," Venus admitted. "When you're winning, it's fun. When you're losing, it sucks. I'm happy to be winning, trying to prevent losses."
Neither player hit their heights in the opening set, though Vekic was the more consistent of the pair, making just seven unforced errors to the 18 that arrived from the other end of the court. The WTA World No.26 was persistently able to make inroads into her opponent’s serve and sped into the lead as she won five games in succession after falling 2-1 behind.
Vekic had been allowed to get into a rhythm in the opening set due to the one-paced approach by Venus, yet in the second she was faced with a different challenge as the veteran applied more height and spin to her groundstrokes and as a consequence made fewer unforced errors and drove her opponent back in the court.
The seven-time major winner streaked out to 5-1 and needed all of that advantage as Vekic staged a rally late in the set, winning nine points in succession but missing two chances to get back on serve. Ultimately, parity was restored when the WTA World No.26 hooked a forehand return into the tramlines.
Unperturbed be her opponent’s purple patch and the grueling conditions, Venus, who had hit 11 winners to just six unforced errors in the second set, took charge of the decider, going toe-to-toe with her rival and not showing any ill effects from her 137-minute battle with the WTA World No.5 on Tuesday.
Three successive breaks at the start of the third set left Venus 2-1 up and she protected her serve bravely before breaking for a third time to seal the match and a last-eight meeting with either Madison Keys or Simona Halep.
Meanwhile, she was delighted to be cheered on by Serena, who had to pull out of the tournament due to ongoing back issues.
"It's super fun," she said. "I mean, she's obviously taking time away from her baby girl to come see me.
"It's great to have that support. Obviously the support of my other sister here, too, Isha. I'm never alone, that's for sure."