Playing just her fourth Wimbledon warm-up event of her career, Venus Williams surged past talented youngster Aliaksandra Sasnovich to reach the second round of the Nature Valley Classic in Birmingham.
David Kane
June 19, 2019

BIRMINGHAM, Great Britain - Former World No.1 Venus Williams made a victorious debut at the Nature Valley Classic, knocking out Aliaksandra Sasnovich, 6-3, 6-4 to reach the second round.

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The American wildcard is playing just her fourth Wimbledon warm-up tournament - and first since 2011 - but displayed the form that took her to five titles at the All England Club as she surged past the talented Belarusian after 81 minutes on Ann Jones Centre Court.

"I though today was a really strong start, actually," she said after the match. "A pretty cool match, not a lot of errors and my opponent played really, really well. So I know that I'm going to have to play well from hereon out and just to be able to play some patches and get my feet on the grass is a really good feeling."

Williams played doubles with Harriet Dart earlier in the week as she celebrated her 39th birthday, and made a quick start against Sasnovich, breaking serve at her first opportunity.

"We had a blast," she said of her doubles experience with Dart. "She is clearly very passionate about the game and is putting the work in and, as a young person, it takes time to figure out your game, figure out your strengths, figure out how to play against these players with more experience.

"I wish we could have had a little more time to get used to playing with each other and I thought we had a great showing and almost won, so that was a great performance from us and with Serena's permission maybe we will play together again!"

Though the 25-year-old, who reached the Round of 16 at Wimbledon last year, earned two breaks of her own, she couldn't consolidate as Williams served out the opening set to 15.

The second set was much closer as the American grabbed the lone break in the fifth game, and held on as Sasnovich forced her to serve for the match.


Williams struck her first ace of the match in that final game, and ultimately secured victory on her second match point with another powerful serve.

"I have seen her play a little bit before, not a lot," she said of Sasnovich. "I never saw her hit that hard, so today she really just came full steam ahead and it is challenging. I haven't played a match in a few weeks and to play against an opponent you have never played before and on a new surface and I don't think anyone has not got that much time on the grass.

"You kind of come out, like, 'Okay, I don't know what is going to happen today, I hope it's okay.' So I was pleased to have played a pretty clean match and she really went for every shot and when they were landing some of them were just untouchable, so I had to be focused every single moment in that match and so it was a great start and a great challenge."

In all, the American won an impressive 73% of points behind her first serve and converted four of six break point opportunities as she aims to make a splash in what will, in two weeks, be her 22nd appearance in the main draw of Wimbledon. Runner-up to Garbiñe Muguruza in 2017, she fell before the second week for the first time in four years in her most recent campaign, narrowly losing to Kiki Bertens in the third round.

Up next for the seven-time Grand Slam champion is No.8 seed Wang Qiang, who won a rain-interrupted first round clash against American qualifier Lauren Davis earlier in the day.