NEW YORK, NY, USA - Former World No.1 Venus Williams edged past a resurgent Svetlana Kuznetsova, knocking out the former champion, 6-3, 5-7, 6-3 to advance into the second round of the US Open in her 20th appearance in Flushing Meadows.
"I'm most pleased I won the match," a smiling Williams said in her first post-match press conference. "I think I stayed pretty aggressive throughout the match, and that's how I want to play the tournament."
Seeded No.16, Venus has never lost in the first round at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center, making the final in her 1997 debut and winning back-to-back titles in 2000 and 2001. She kept that record intact on Monday, outlasting the 2004 winner after two hours and 53 minutes in sweltering conditions on Arthur Ashe Stadium.
"I think that the stadium definitely kept a lot of the heat in, but it was also hot outside of the stadium. It was definitely interesting match for the US Open."
Kuznetsova has struggled through the 2018 season with a wrist injury, but sealed her case for a US Open wildcard when she won 18th career WTA title at the Citi Open to kick off the US summer hardcourt swing.
The Russian won five of her previous 10 encounters with Williams, and started strong with an early break and points for a 3-1 lead.
Despite pulling out of the Western & Southern Open with right knee injury incurred at the Coupe Rogers, Venus soon steadied to win the next four games, saving a break point in the fifth game and two more as she served out the opening set.
Williams surged ahead to kick off the second, taking a double break lead before Kuznetsova interrupted her momentum and clawed back into the match, saving two match points to level the match at a set apiece.
The heat rule was in effect and delayed the start of the third, which the former World No.1 opened with another double break advantage. Kuznetsova gamely battled back, saving two break points in a titanic seventh game.
"It's wonderful when the crowd is behind you. I experienced that much later in my career than I guess is typical. But I guess it's wonderful to have people on your side. You have to do it for yourself as well, but if the crowd is with you, it's wonderful to do it for them, too."
Ultimately, the American proved too strong, breaking once more to secure her spot in the second round.
In all, it was a high-quality affair from both competitors, Venus striking 48 winners to 45 unforced erros while Kuznetsova struck 40 winners to 38 unforced errors.
Up next for the seven-time Grand Slam champion is Wimbledon quarterfinalist Camila Giorgi, who ousted American wildcard Whitney Osuigwe in straight sets. A big hitter off both sides, Giorgi stretched sister Serena to three sets at the All England Club earlier this summer.
"That's her game style. I definitely have some pace, too. I'm definitely going to go out there with some weapons. I definitely feel like can I hold my own. Just want to continue to play the game I'm playing.
"There are no easy matches. Everyone is playing well. The higher you're ranked, the more that people come for you. It's just a chance for them to just hit out. They always play well against you, all the top players. I don't know that they maintain that level, otherwise you probably would see them more often. But when you get out there, they come for you."