Venus beats top-20 player for first time since ’19

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MASON, Ohio — Venus Williams beat a top-20 player for the first time in four years, rallying from big deficits in both sets to knock off 16th-ranked Veronika Kudermetova 6-4, 7-5 in the first round of the Western & Southern Open on Monday.

The 43-year-old Williams, a seven-time Grand Slam champion, improved her match record this year to 3-5. She came in ranked 533rd.

Williams trailed 4-1 in each set but fought back each time, converting six of nine break points in the match. She also endured two rain delays.

“I just kept telling myself, ‘I just want to win this point — not the match, just one point,'” Williams said. “When you break things down like that, big problems become small problems. That’s how I did that.”

Williams had lost her previous 10 matches against top-20 players since beating then-No. 5 Kiki Bertens in 2019 at Cincinnati.

Another American veteran, 2017 US Open champion Sloane Stephens, beat Elisabetta Cocciaretto 7-5, 6-2. The start of the match was delayed 2 hours, 44 minutes.

“There’s a lot of adversity,” Stephens said. “You manage it the best you can. It’s tough for everyone.”

The 30-year-old Stephens will face defending champion and No. 6 seed Caroline Garcia in the second round.

On the men’s side, No. 12 seed Felix Auger-Aliassime beat Matteo Berrettini 4-6, 6-2, 6-3. Auger-Aliassime, a Canadian who reached the US Open semifinals two years ago, improved to 3-8 over his past 11 matches.

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