ROME, Italy - A decisive break late in each set helped Venus Williams return to the round of 16 in Rome for the second time in five years on Wednesday, as she defeated Lesia Tsurenko, 6-4, 6-3 at the Internazionali BNL d'Italia.
The 1999 champion in Rome had won back-to-back matches in just one visit to the Foro Italico since reaching the quarterfinals in 2012, but the No.9 seed now earns a clash against Johanna Konta for a spot in the last eight.
Williams was complimentary of the World No.41's effort following the match.
"I thought my opponent played really well," Williams said. "She's so consistent, super competitive, took her opportunities. It was nice to get a win against an opponent who is playing well."
In what was a high-quality affair from the baseline in the pair's first-ever meeting, the Ukrainian found her footing after Williams quickly marched out to a 4-1 in the opening set.
After holding serve in a tight game that went to deuce, the World No.41 earned her first break point of the match in the seventh game, and duly struck on a backhand return winner to get the set back on serve.
That kicked off a run of four straight breaks of serve which closed out the opening set; though she failed in her first attempt to serve out the set at 5-3, the American converted on her first set point in her ensuring return game when a Tsurenko backhand drifted wide at the end of another grinding rally that defined the match.
"On the clay, the points can be very unexpected and you can sometimes lose a point that you thought you won," Williams said about the level of the match. "All the courts will play a little bit differently, so...it's just so many variables. I have a lot of experience on the clay. I think that helps a little bit. When I come to play, I've got to be ready to play or else, you know, I'm not going to get a lot of chances."
With five career top 10 wins to her credit, Tsurenko started quickly against the World No.12 in the second set, breaking in the opening game and earning the first hold of serve to claim her first lead of the match.
However, Williams found her footing from there, and bookended a pair of love holds in between another break of the Tsurenko delivery to move ahead 3-2.
The two players went with serve from there, until Williams dug in and earned the decisive break in the eighth game from 30-0 down, and sealed the 90-minute victory with a decisive hold in the final game.
Williams and Konta will play for the second time this season and fifth time overall, as the Brit leads 3-1 in career meetings. The pair have never met on clay, but Konta earned a 6-4, 7-5 win in the semifinals en route to winning the title at the Miami Open.
"She's won a match here, [and is] very competitive," Williams assessed. "So I have never played her on clay. I don't know really what to expect. I will try to continue to execute my game and, you know, do my best.
"[I have] no big opinion about the draw, because if you don't win your match, then you're not playing. So my goal is to win on my court and then do that again the next day."