Venus Williams defy her physical problems to beat Italy’s Camila Giorgi in an emotional first-round thriller at the Birmingham Classic.
American Williams appeared to be in tears after taking a medical timeout just five games into the match.
However, with her right knee heavily strapped, the 43-year-old battled to a 7-6 (7-5) 4-6 7-6 (8-6) win.
It was only Williams’ second singles victory in almost two years after lengthy injury lay-offs.
“I hit some 120mph serves and I haven’t done that in a couple of years – I was like, I’ve missed you!” Williams, now ranked 657, said.
“I thought I played well today and she did too. I’m surprised she’s not number one in the world.
“There were so many moments where I thought the match was over and she hit a shot out of nowhere so she pushed me to be better than what I thought I could be.”
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Williams, a seven-time Grand Slam singles champion, received vocal support from the Birmingham crowd as she pushed through her physical limitations in a gruelling encounter.
She had lost on her return to grass-court tennis at the Libema Open last week but, despite a heavily strapped right knee, showed some of her trademark grit to secure victory over Giorgi.
“I got out to a great start and my leg started hurting in the third game and I thought ‘oh no not this'”, Williams added.
“It was hard to control my emotions. Eventually I just tried to ignore it – I couldn’t move as well as I wanted but I tried to get to every ball.”
In an intriguing start, former world number one Williams secured an early double break in the first set but was left close to tears after taking a medical timeout.
Giorgi sought to capitalise but the five-time Wimbledon singles champion saved break point with back-to-back aces, despite the heavy strapping on her knee and some lethargy between points.
World number 48 Giorgi reeled off the next three games but Williams held firm to force a tie-break, which she claimed with a stunning backhand winner.
Written by: Debby Eselebor