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By Richard Pagliaro | @Tennis_Now | Tuesday, March 19, 2024


Nineteen-year-old Diana Shnaider spoiled Williams’ record 22nd Miami Open appearance with a 6-3, 6-3 sweep on Grandstand Court.

Photo credit: Getty for Miami Open

Scrawling her signature shot wide, Venus Williams slapped her palm against her thigh in frustration.

Repeatedly trying to rouse herself, Williams ran out of answers in her Miami Open return.

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Nineteen-year-old Diana Shnaider spoiled Williams’ record 22nd Miami Open appearance with a 6-3, 6-3 sweep on Grandstand Court.

Sister Serena Wiliams, who sat chatting with master MC Andrew Krasny cheered on Venus 26 years after her big sister stopped Miami resident Anna Kournikova to win the 1998 Miami Open when it was staged on Crandon Park’s Key Biscayne.

Today, the 43-year-old Williams was playing her record 85th Miami Open match and went up a break at 2-1 in the second set.

Empowered by her run to her maiden title in Hua Hin, Shnaider kept the ball moving corner to corner testing the iconic champions legs and punishing her second serve. Shnaider won 21 of 28 points played on Williams’ second serve and broke serve six times.

“I was very excited and very nervous at the same time,” Shnaider told Tennis Channel’s Prakash Amritraj afterward. “I mean even during the whole match I was very nervous. To do something wrong and everything, how’s people gonna see me play? What’s Venus gonna think about me?

“So there were many thoughts. So I’m very happy that I managed to kind of go for it. It’s very exciting to play. Because I never thought I’m gonna be able to play her in my life. So it’s very exciting, very nervous, I’m just very happy now.”

Wild card Williams, who bowed to qualifier Nao Hibino 6-2, 3-6, 0-6 in Indian Wells earlier this month, was playing for her first Tour-level match win since she upset Veronika Kudermetova in the Cincinnati first round last August.

Was this the three-time champion’s final farewell to her home tournament?

We’ll have to wait and see. Williams joined fellow wild card Emma Raducanu, who withdrew from Miami due to a lower back injury, in departing the draw.

In a vintage Venus moment, Williams rapped a running backhand bolt crosscourt that helped her hold at love—her third straight game—for 3-2.

Hooking her lefty serve out wide, Shnaider answered with a love hold of her own to level 3-all.

Nearly 30 years after her pro debut, the 43-year-old Williams was striking the ball well, but wasn’t always reacting to it quickly off the teenager’s racquet.

The 19-year-old Shnaider drew a series of errors breaking again for 4-3.

Shnaider smacked a forehand return winner down the line for a second set point. Lashing a diagonal forehand winner, Shnaider scored her third service break collecting a one-set lead after 32 minutes.

The bad news for Williams, Shnaider was dominating the American’s serve winning 69 percent of the second-serve points.

The worse news: Williams was mired in a 23-match losing streak when dropping the opening set.

Three straight breaks started the second set. Williams had game points to confirm, but betrayed her cause with three double faults in the game.

A cat dashed on court at one point during the near 10-minute game as Shnaider clawed back to break and level after four games.

When a backhand missed the mark, Williams banged her Blade off the side of her leg in frustration at her inability to repeatedly find the sweet spot.

The crowd was largely quiet when Williams double-faulted the break and a 5-3 lead to the left-hander.

Shnaider smacked a backhand winner down the line to close in 79 minutes.

The victory sends Shnaider into a second-round showdown with 2017 US Open finalist Madison Keys.


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