Venus Williams’ return to the tour ended in a first-round loss to Rebecca Marino at the Citi Open on Monday. The Canadian qualifier came from a set back to beat the former world No. 1, 4-6, 6-1, 6-4 in an hour and 52 minutes.
Williams, 41, was playing her first tournament in almost a year – she hadn’t played since the Chicago Open held in the last week of August 2021 – and, despite the obvious lack of training , she managed to lead by one set in the match.
But she was unable to maintain her pace as the match progressed. In the second set, Williams was only able to win 11% of her second serve points, while in the third set, she finished with 29%.
So while in the deciding set, Williams and Marino were almost even in points won on their first serves – Marino won 81% to Williams’ 85% – her second serves severely let the seven-time champion down.
In the second round, Marino will face either Andrea Petkovic or eighth seed Clara Tauson.
Citi Open: Mixed day for the top seeds
A few seeds were eliminated in the first round.
Liudmila Samsonova surprised everyone by defeating fifth-seeded Elise Mertens in their round of 32 clash. Samsonova won 7-6(4), 6-4 in two hours and four minutes and will face either Ajla Tomljanovic or Sloane Stephens.
Donna Vekic knocked out seventh seed Mayar Sherif 6-4, 6-1 in 75 minutes. The Croatian awaits either qualifier Xinyu Wang or Tatjana Maria in the second round. Sixth-seeded Kaia Kanepi advanced to the knockout stages with a 6-3, 6-3 win over Greet Minnen.
The Estonian will then play against Lin Zhu. The Chinese beat Britain’s Heather Dart, 6-4, 6-3 in their opener. Daria Saville picked up a 3-6, 7-5, 7-6(4) victory over Sweden’s Mirjam Bjorklund who qualified.
The Australian will face top seed Jessica Pegula, who is also defending her title this week, for a chance to reach the quarter-finals. The American beat wildcard Hailey Baptiste in an American derby 6-2, 6-2.
Finally, third seed Simona Halep also took her place in the second round of the Citi Open. The former world number 1 got rid of Spanish qualifier Cristina Bucsa, 6-3, 7-5 and could face Madison Brengle or Anna Kalinskaya. Photo credit: Citi Open Twitter.