Saturday evening, Venus Williams took on fellow American Alison Riske before a full house at the Taube Family Tennis Stadium. This setting was a familiar friend for Williams as she found success on this same court early in her career.
Venus quickly dominated the first set going up 3-0 in about 15 minutes. She brought all of her weapons to bear and was serving in the 115 MPH range. An early night seemed inevitable. But Riske came to play, made adjustments and fought to find her range. She held serve avoiding the bagel, 5-1. While this shift came too late to turn the first set outcome, Riske carried that momentum and belief into the next set.
The second set duration was 1 hour and 11 minutes. Both players held their first two service games as rallies grew longer. Riske looked inspired and ready to fight. Venus continued to impress, breaking Riske with the help of a double fault. On serve at 3-2, Riske pressed Williams during the longest game of the match.
Fourteen points later, Riske broke back and was handling returns with greater confidence. The score now 3-3, Alison had dug in. The crowd engaged, providing even-handed support to both players.
Back-to-back service holds brought the score to 4-4. You could feel and hear excitement in the stands. Once again Venus pressed Ali, allowing her only one point on serve, the score now 5-4 Williams. With Venus on serve, the end seemed imminent.
However, fans were reminded that even the best can waiver. Venus struggled, hitting an uncharacteristic series of double faults, 4 in total. With the door wide open, Riske stepped thru, breaking back to 5-5. Venus shook off this wobble, displaying humor and composure.
Riske held again to 5-6, winning an exciting net exchange. With Venus on serve, Riske returned well and was up 0-30 at one point. But, Venus took charge, pushing Riske back and side-to-side to hold. Now 6-6, she forced the tiebreak. Classic Venus was on display, power, placement and poise.
Venus dominated the tiebreak, winning 7 points to Riske’s 2. Despite a drop in velocity, her serve placement was intact. Venus wowed the crowd with her classic performance, while Alison showed tremendous heart by never giving up. Final score: 6-1 7-6(2).
With another Stanford final on deck, Venus has an opportunity to extend her singles title record to 50. She faces rising star, world No. 18 Johanna Konta, another talented server. In contrast, Konta will be competing to capture her first WTA title.
Match play starts at 2PM. With high stakes for both players, find a ticket if you can!