Venus Williams earns long-awaited victory in Auckland

AUCKLAND, New Zealand (AP) — Venus Williams is back in the win column.

The 42-year-old Williams beat qualifier Katie Volynets 7-6 (4) 6-2 in the first round at the ASB Classic on Monday for her first singles victory since Wimbledon in 2021.

The seven-time major champion has been awarded a wild-card entry to play at the Australian Open.

She ended a nine-match losing streak on the WTA tour dating back two years. Her only singles victories in that time came at Grand Slam level, most recently in a first-round win at the All England Club in 2021. She was 0-4 in singles last year.

“This is one of my favorite places to come and I was so excited that I made it here,” the former No. 1 player said in her on-court interview. “It is so great to be back and thank you for staying so late and I am glad that I managed to get a win.”

Williams will next face Chinese player Zhu Lin, who beat Madison Brengle.

Earlier Monday, Leylah Fernandez opened her 2023 season with a 6-1, 6-1 win over 15-year-old Brenda Fruhvirtova.

The 20-year-old Canadian said life had been tough since her final appearance at the 2021 U.S. Open, where she was beaten by Britain’s Emma Raducanu, who also is in the main draw at Auckland.

“It’s been tougher more mentally and emotionally because you don’t really know what the future holds for you and you have these big dreams and sometimes you get knocked down and you feel like that’s the end of the journey,” the third-seeded Fernandez said.

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