Venus Williams loses Against Shnaider in the Miami Opening

Venus Williams’ record 22nd Miami Open appearance came to an end in the first round when Diana Shnaider defeated the three-time winner 6-3, 6-3 in one hour and 19 minutes.

The competition had a lot of contrasts. Shnaider, 19, is one of six adolescents competing in the 2024 main draw; Williams, 43, is the oldest competitor. Williams was participating in her 85th main-draw match in Miami, setting a new tournament record (this time shared with her sister Serena); Shnaider was making her debut, having lost to Laura Siegemund in the first round of qualifying on her previous outing.

But although experience gap gave Williams the advantage, form belonged to Shnaider, who was rated 62nd. She made it to the Charleston WTA 125 final last week after winning her maiden Hologic WTA Tour event in Hua Hin last month. In contrast, Williams, who is rated No. 457, was participating in just her second tournament of the year after missing seven months due to injuries. She lost to Nao Hibino in the Indian Wells first round two weeks ago, and she hasn’t won a match since beating Veronika Kudermetova in the Cincinnati opening round in August of last year.

But the former world number one made Shnaider work hard for the victory, showcasing some classic ball-striking techniques and taking the lead early in the second set.

Williams won the match by playing her best tennis early in each set. After losing the opening game early, she rallied for a three-game winning run that included an incredible scrambling backhand winner to take a 3-2 lead. And after losing the opening set, the seven-time major champion let loose early in the second, breaking Shnaider twice and holding five games to take a 3-1 lead.

However, generally, Shnaider was the one who dominated the game. She maintained her unforced error count down to 14 against Williams’s 24 and struck out 22 winners to the American’s 15. Williams also lost because of six double faults, one of which occurred on a break point in the match’s penultimate game.

The highlight stroke of the day was Shnaider’s left-handed forehand, which she used to win several important points, including three to break Williams in the first set’s last game. The young player also made an impression with her front-running skills. After navigating the tight early exchanges, she swept both sets, winning the first four games in a row and the second three games in a row.

In the second round, Shnaider will go up against Madison Keys, a fellow American ranked No. 17 in the rankings, where she will try to win her third career Top 20 match.

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