Three-time Miami champion and 7-time Grand Slam winner Venus Williams was knocked out of the Miami Open presented by Itaú in her opening match by 89th-ranked Zarina Diyas of Kazakhstan, 6-2 7-6(10), after an hour and a half.
When women are doing well, the family does well and so does the economy—we all win. Venus Williams, in British Vogue
Williams, who is 40 years old and ranked 79, was making her 21st appearance at the tournament, which is being held 75 minutes from her home in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida, and it now has been 20 years since since won the event in 2001, when she beat Jennifer Capriati in the final.
Crowds were small for the first day of main draw play, and will continue to be because of the pandemic.
Only 750 fans are allowed onto the grounds per session, with the 5,000-seat grandstand being used for showcase matches.
Diyas had lost her only previous match against Williams, in Cincinnati 2015, but the Kazakh has improved her win-loss record to 7-4 in Miami since then, and reached the round of 16 here in 2018, her best result at the tournament.
She struck 8 winners to 7 unforced errors and broke Williams 3 times to cruise through to 6-2 in the opening set.
Williams went up a break for 3-1 in the second, and consolidated it with an ace to open up to 4-1 lead, when Dyias broke back in the 6th game to narrow the gap.
Dyias failed to serve out the match at 6-5, as Williams broke back with a forehand winner down the line to set up a tiebreak.
The Kazakh then wasted 2 match points at 6-5 and 7-6 and, when Williams did not convert her 2 set points at 8-7 and 9-8, Diyas earned her 3rd at 10-9 with a forehand winner.
Williams saved this one too, with a backhand winner to draw level to 10-10, but she then double-faulted to face another match point, which Diyas converted when the American netted a forehand.
“I am happy with the win today,” said Diyas. “It was very tough.
“Venus, I looked up to her when I was little. She is such a legend. It’s a really special win today.”
Williams has many interests beyond tennis and she is a champion of many causes.
“Thank you @Vogue for giving me another platform for this important cause,” she wrote on Instagram earlier this week.
Having self-made her many platforms over time, Williams writes a moving letter about equality in the British edition of Vogue this month.
“There is still a mindset that women’s tennis isn’t as valuable as men’s,” she wrote.
As four-time Olympic gold medalist, she added that ‘we must not allow [that mindset] to dictate society’s progress’.
“I firmly believe that sport mirrors life and life mirrors sport,” Williams wrote. “The lack of equality and equal opportunities in tennis is a symptom of the obstacles women face around the world.”
She added that, in the United States, women made 82.3 cents for every dollar men made in 2019 and, inspired by that ‘shocking’ statistic, she is initiating a campaign called #PrivilegeTax.
“When women are doing well, the family does well and so does the economy—we all win,” Williams writes. “That the gender pay gap hits women of colour hardest.
“As an African-American woman, to know how hard we have to fight to show we’re human beings with a heart that beats just like everybody else; to know what it’s like to face biases based on gender and race is why I’m so passionate about campaigning for equality across the board.”
“And we must not allow it to dictate society’s progress.”
Back in Miami, all the seeded players have first-round byes, including No 1 Ash Barty, who arrived in Florida after an exhausting 45-hour trip from Australia.
“Brisbane-Sydney, Sydney to LA, LA on to Miami is usually quite an easy trip,” Barty said. “We had a flight cancellation leaving Australia, and another flight cancellation when we got to LA.
“It was quite a wriggle-around.”
Serena Williams is absent from the field, however, having withdrawn due to oral surgery at the weekend but everyone else is here.
The 12 qualifiers will not include Britain’s Harriet Dart, who lost her 2nd round qualifying match to Tereza Martincova, the 13th seed, 6-3 7-5 on Tuesday.
In the main draw Poland’s Magda Linette beat 16-year-old Robin Montgomery, an American wild card, 6-1 3-6 6-0.
Linette was playing her first match of the season after missing the first two-a-half months of the year due to a knee injury, and set up a 2nd round meeting with Britain’s Johanna Konta, the No 17 seed.
Elsewhere, Sorana Cristea from Romania cruised past 16-year-old Katrina Scott, another American wild card, 6-2 6-2.
In an all-American face-off, Shelby Rogers won 80 % of her first service point and fended off all 3 break points in her 6-3 6-3 win over Madison Brengle.
Rogers set up a second round match over 2018 WTA Finals champion Elina Svitolina, the No 5 seed.
In one of the first matches of the day, Christina McHale from the US and Germany’s Laura Siegemund didn’t get far when Hawk-Eye Live let out a massive noise.
In just the second game, McHale hit a first-serve long and hesitated to tee-up her second as the system let out blaring and chaotic booms, causing the chair umpire to shake his head and shrug in confusion.
Both McHale and Siegemund quickly retreated to the back of the court and waited out the glitch, which was duly sorted.
Siegemund claimed the opening affair, 6-3 7-5, to advance into the 1000-level event’s second round.
Before serving for the match a second time at 6-3, 6-5, the German took a medical time out and appeared to have a lower back issue, but it didn’t seem to affect her play, as she held to love to win the match.
She will next face 2-time major champion and Miami’s No 14 seed Victoria Azarenka from Belarus.