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Venus Williams vs Elena Vesnina WTA Rome tennis live: Williams tries to avoid third straight defeat to Vesnina at the Internazionali BNL d’Italia

Hannah Wilks in WTA Tour 15 May 2018
  • Venus Williams looks for her first win on clay in 2018 as she faces Elena Vesnina in the second round of the Internazionali BNL d'Italia
  • Williams vs Vesnina Internazionali BNL d'Italia tennis is live from Rome on Wednesday at 2pm local/1pm BST
Venus Williams (Photo by Gareth Copley/Getty Images)

Former Internazionali BNL d’Italia champion Venus Williams looks for her first win on cla for 2018 as she takes on Elena Vesnina in the second round in Rome on Wednesday.

Elena Vesnina has a winning record against Venus Williams – can she stop the eighth seed from getting her first win on clay for 2018 when they face off at the Internazionali BNL d’Italia in Rome?

Runner-up in Rome to Martina Hingis 20 years ago in 1998 and champion a year later in 1999 when she defeated Mary Pierce in the final, Venus Williams may not have made the final of the Internazionali BNL d’Italia since or the semifinals after 2009, but she still boasts an impressive count of 32 match wins at the Foro Italico and was in the quarterfinals as recently as 12 months ago, when she defeated then-world no. 6 Johanna Konta before losing to Garbine Muguruza in three sets.

Clay is by no means Williams’s best surface, but she does better in Rome than at most other events and will be hoping that it lifts her again in 2018 with the French Open around the corner. So far this season, playing outside of the USA hasn’t been particularly fruitful for Williams; she is 7-2 on US soil, 0-3 elsewhere. She didn’t win a match in Sydney or at the Australian Open, losing to Angelique Kerber and Belinda Bencic, but got her first wins of the season against the Netherlands in Fed Cup (admittedly Arantxa Rus and Richel Hogenkamp aren’t the toughest opponents), a tie played at home. Then she made the semifinals of Indian Wells, delivering a rare victory over sister Serena on the way, before reaching the quarterfinals in Miami, losing to Daria Kasatkina and qualifier Danielle Collins respectively.

Williams didn’t return to action for some weeks until she played the first match of her clay-court season at least week’s Mutua Madrid Open, where she fell foul of a tough draw, encountering confident Anett Kontaveit – who already had a semifinal at the Porsche Tennis Grand Prix under her belt – and losing in three sets. Looking no more than a bit rusty was all it took to lose to the Estonian, who is playing some magnificent tennis against top players in recent weeks, but it means that Williams comes into Rome without very much match practice to draw on, not having won a match since Miami in March.

Williams has made the rare, but sensible, decision to play doubles at the Internazionali BNL d’Italia, teaming up with Madison Keys – the first time since 2009 she has played doubles with anybody apart from Serena – and the pair were fortunate that their match wasn’t among those cancelled due to Tuesday’s rain and late start, recording a 2-6, 6-1, 10-8 victory over Barbora Krejcikova and Katerina Siniakova that will have helped the former champion find her feet at the Internazionali BNL d’Italia once more.

That isn’t quite as good as the preparation that Williams’s second-round opponent Elena Vesnina has had – namely, playing and winning a singles match already, in Vesnina’s case defeating Laura Siegemund 6-7(5), 2-6. That was an impressive win, not so much because of the opponent (Stuttgart champion Siegemund is still searching for form after a knee injury that has kept her off court for months) but because the conditions on the court where the two were playing were positively swamplike due to the rain.

Vesnina, a veteran at 31, has coped with all sorts of conditions over her career. Ranked as high as world no. 13 in 2017 after two career peaks over the past 12 months – a run to the Wimbledon semifinals in 2016 and a tremendous charge to the title at Indian Wells in 2017, beating Angelique Kerber, Venus herself, Kristina Mladenovic and Svetlana Kuznetsova – Vesnina has always been a streaky player, with the occasional brilliant run, like winning Eastbourne in 2013, interspersed with barren spells. 

Since that peak of winning Indian Wells, Vesnina’s singles results have returned to being modest. She won back-to-back matches only three more times during the remainder of 2017, and has been sliding down the rankings fast in 2018, dropping out of the top 20 after losing in the second round of the Australian Open to Naomi Osaka and then plummeting out of the top 40 after failing to defend her Indian Wells title, losing in the third round to Kerber. Vesnina’s best results so far in 2018 have been a quarterfinal appearance at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships – she beat Jelena Ostapenko before losing to Daria Kasatkina – and reaching the round of 16 at the Volvo Car Open in Charleston, where Kristyna Pliskova stopped her run. The other twin, Karolina, defeated her in the first round of the Madrid Open.

Vesnina, who has never been past the third round in Rome, has a winning 4-2 head-to-head against Venus Williams and has won their last two meetings, beating the American in Miami in 2016 and Indian Wells in 2017 (three sets each time). Vesnina also, notoriously, defeated Williams on the grass of Wimbledon in 2012 but the two have never met on clay – a factor that you would suppose might be in Vesnina’s favour. The Russian hasn’t been playing brilliantly recently, but the upset is nevertheless definitely a possibility on Wednesday. It all depends how quickly Williams can find her range, and I think the doubles will have helped her on that front. I’m sticking with the American to get an opening win in Rome.

Williams vs Vesnina Internazionali BNL d’Italia tennis is live from Rome on Wednesday at 2pm local/1pm BST

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Venus Williams vs Elena Vesnina WTA Rome tennis live: Williams tries to avoid third straight defeat to Vesnina at the Internazionali BNL d’Italia

Venus Williams looks for her first win on clay in the 2018 season as she takes on Elena Vesnina at the Internazionali BNL d’Italia: WTA Rome tennis live from Rome

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