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Venus Williams becomes first big name to fall at 2018 French Open

Venus Williams becomes first big name to fall at 2018 French Open as number nine seed is knocked out by China’s Qiang Wang

  • Venus Williams was beaten 6-4, 7-5 by China’s Qiang Wang in the first round
  • Wang only really started playing on clay as recently as 2017
  • Returning Serena must now fly the flag for the Williams sisters 

It is up to the returning Serena to fly the Williams flag after Venus became the first big name to fall at this year’s French Open.

The 37-year-old No 9 seed was knocked out 6-4, 7-5 by China’s Qiang Wang. The seven-time Grand Slam champion made 35 unforced errors, while world No 91 Wang produced a superb display of clean hitting. 

Despite looking like a natural on clay, Wang only really started playing on the surface in 2017.

Venus Williams became the first big name to fall at this year’s French Open

‘I just started to play on clay last year,’ she said on court after the match. ‘My coach says it is good for my game.’ 

On this evidence he certainly has a point, as Wang scampered around the court, sliding beautifully like a born dirtballer to score her first victory against a top 10 player since she beat Caroline Wozniacki in Kuala Lumpur in 2013.

This was the second year in a row that these two have faced each other in the first round here. Williams won a tight contest 6-4, 7-6 last year, and Wang had clearly taken heart from that match. ‘Last year was very close and I knew I had nothing to lose,’ said the 26-year-old.

Williams was beaten 6-4, 7-5 by China's Qiang Wang in the first round of the tournament

Williams was beaten 6-4, 7-5 by China’s Qiang Wang in the first round of the tournament

Williams was perhaps the player who best took advantage of her sister’s absence from the tour last year to have her first child. She reached two Grand Slam finals, the first in Australia where she lost to a pregnant Serena, and made the semi-finals of the US Open.

But Roland Garros has always been her least favourite hunting ground of the four Slams, and while Wang looked a natural on clay the vastly experienced Williams looked decidedly uncomfortable with her movement at times.

VENUS WILLIAMS’ RECENT RECORD AT THE FRENCH OPEN 

2018 – First round

2017 – Fourth round

2016 – Fourth round

2015 – First round

2014 – Second round 

The players exchanged breaks early on but Wang’s second break at 4-4 was decisive.

It looked as though normal service had been resumed in the second set as Venus took a 3-0 lead. This was a familiar storyline; the plucky underdog snatches the first set before Williams exerts her personality and the challenger fades away.

But Wang refused to conform to stereotype, sticking to her guns and working her way back into the set. Her backhand is reliable and her forehand does the damage, with 13 winners in this match.

At 4-5 down Wang served to stay in the set and Williams earned a break point. But The Chinese saved it nervelessly and reeled off the next two games.

Her reward is a date with Croatian world No 34 Petra Martic in the second round.

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