By Mark Poulose
KEY BISCAYNE - Venus Williams overcame a shaky start to roll to a 6-3, 7-6 (1) victory over fourth-seeded Caroline Wozniacki in front of a modest Monday morning crowd at the Crandon Park Tennis Center. Venus’ victory kicked off the second week of play at the Miami Open.
With her fourth round win, Venus advanced to the quarterfinal at Miami for the first time since 2012. After her straight sets triumph over Wozniacki, Williams now commandingly leads the match up of former world No. 1 players 7-0. It is Williams’ 16th appearance at the tournament, an event she’s won in 1998, 1999, and 2001.
The three-time champion was in a reflective mood after the match. “I think my first match [here] there was a rat in the stands. They had to stop the match,” she remarked. “It was intense.”
At the onset of her match today, however, both players seemingly lacked intensity.
The match started with five consecutive breaks of serve, before Williams finally settled in during the sixth game to hold. Both Wozniacki and Williams appeared uneasy at the start of the match, each committing a series of unexpected unforced errors in the first set.
After holding, Venus soon found her rhythm and consistently stepped into the court to unleash a barrage of powerful forehands and backhands, forcing Wozniacki to play from well behind the baseline for much of the match.
Wozniacki, a defensive player often content to rally with her opponents, could not withstand the bombardment Williams supplied. Wozniacki twice had the opportunity to serve for the second set, yet the veteran Venus survived the pressure and forced a second set tiebreak.
Momentum on her side, Williams raced to a 7-1 victory in the tiebreak to close out the match. Wozniacki never looked comfortable in the match, in stark contrast to the three-time champion and seven-time Grand Slam champion who walked about Stadium court with dignified confidence.
“[Stepping out on Stadium court] just never gets old, the adrenaline and the competition… there is nothing like it,” Williams said.
Venus deftly and confidently attacked the net during the match’s most important points, dictating play from the middle of the court before moving in. Her old-school strategy proved to be superior to Wozniacki’s modern baseline strategy, and worked to great effect. In total, Williams hit 40 winners, whereas Wozniacki hit just nine.
Wozniacki won just 41% of points on serve; including just 26% on her second serve. Her second offering rarely eclipsed 75 mph, and Venus attacked the serve to great effect. Venus broke Wozniacki in 7 of her 11 service games.
The win was Venus’ 124th against a top 10 opponent and her fourth of 2015, a staggering amount of victories over high-caliber opponents. It does not look like the end is near, either, for the 34-year-old Venus.
“Next year is an Olympic year. My whole focus is on trying to get to the Olympics,” she said. “I don’t know what tournaments I’m going to play… [The Olympics] are my goal.”
Younger sister Serena also had an impressive win on Monday afternoon, beating former French Open champion Svetlana Kuznetsova 6-2, 6-3 to continue on her campaign for a record eighth Miami Open title.