Marino prevails on Venus Williams’ return to singles

Former world No. 1 Venus Williams played her first singles match in almost a year at the Citi Open on Monday night but Canadian qualifier Rebecca Marino edged out 4-6 6-1 6-4 against the seven-time Grand- Slam singles champion by making a comeback of 1 hour and 52 minutes.

Here are three takeaways from Marino’s surprise win and William’s return to singles:

First strike control button: In a duel between two excellent servers, superiority from the first delivery was the decisive factor. Williams took the one-set lead by winning almost three-quarters of her points on first serve in the opener, where she never had a break point.

However, Marino won 86 percent of her first service points in a commanding second set, showing she could match Williams’ legendary power play, just like their lone previous meeting 12 years ago at the 2010 US Open, where Williams sat in two tights sentences through.

Washington: Marino claims comeback win over Venus Williams

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Recent form helped Marino flourish: Marino, 31, has made a comeback of her own after an absence from the tour between 2014 and 2017 and her results have steadily improved to the point where she cracked the top 100 for the first time since 2014 last month.

The Canadian veteran’s recent exploits helped in the final set, where Williams went 4-1 up with a break. Marino cleaned up her unforced errors in the decider, finding well-placed serves at critical points including the break point at 4-3 to win the last five games.

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On the other side of the coin, Williams struggled with double faults on her return in singles. Williams had 13 double faults in the match, including four in her last two service games.

Despite the loss, Williams is back: Williams, 42, has not played a game since a first-round loss to Hsieh Su-wei in Chicago last August and the American legend is currently unranked.

However, Williams did not come into the Citi Open without any playing experience. Williams paired with Jamie Murray in Wimbledon mixed doubles, scoring a win and suffering an extremely close loss in the second round one of the best games of the tournament.

At both Wimbledon and Washington, Williams showed good form and fitness against solid players, even in their losses. Williams will now move to WTA 1000 events in Toronto and Cincinnati, where she will be signed up over the next two weeks.

“Just a little rusty,” Williams said afterwards. “I put myself in really good positions in the third set as well. Just trying to shake off some rust. That’s only to be expected. All I can do is just play another tournament and play better.”

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