Venus Williams, now 32 and on the professional tour since 1994, has had a rough time of late with injuries and illness keeping her out of tournaments. Not having played since the US Open (where she lost in the second round), her ranking has dropped to 48. On Thursday afternoon she took on Germany’s 9th seeded Mona Barthel, ten years her junior, who is ranked at 37. Williams fought hard to take the first set on a tie breaker 7-4 after taking a strong lead in the early part of the set. In the second set, Williams again raced to a 3-0 lead before Barthel held and got on the scoreboard. She then broke to trail 2-3 and held for 3-3. Games then went with serve to 5-4 when Williams managed to break Barthel again, to take the set 6-4 and the match in one hour and three quarter hours. Next up for Venus is the top seed, Roberta Vinci.
The night match was between Germany’s Julia Goerges and Roumania’s Monica Niculescu. The German, ranked 19 and the tournament’s second seed, held her first service game and so did the Roumanian, who is now ranked at 70 (with a career high of 28 in February of this year). Niculescu then held her service game and went on to break Goerges to lead 4-1, but the German, known to be a slow starter in matches, came back to 4-5 before Niculescu served for the set at 6-4. Goerges served first in the second set on held, but her opponent held her serve and went on to get the first break of the set to lead 3-1, 4-1 and 5-2 before serving out the set at 6-2.