Venus Williams survives three-hour battle to set up 31st clash against Serena Williams

Venus Williams

Venus Williams outlasted Elise Mertens in the first round of the Italian Open to book a date with sister Serena Williams.

In a contest that lasted more than three hours, Venus came out on top of the 7-5, 3-6, 7-6 (7-4) scoreline at Forco Italico in Rome on Monday.

There were seven breaks of serve in the first set with Venus edging it 4-3 while two breaks in the second set were enough for Mertens to level the match.

The decider took one hour and 22 minutes to complete and Venus initially had the upper hand with two early breaks and the Belgian saved six match points in game eight to claim one break back and then another two match points in game 10 to draw level.

The duo shared another couple of breaks of serve as it went to the tie-breaker and this time Venus made no mistake when she got a match point.

Next up is Serena, who was a 6-4, 6-2 winner over Swede Rebecca Peterson.

Former world No 1 Victoria Azarenka has a much easier encounter as she beat Shuai Zhang 6-2, 6-1 to earn a second-round clash against Elina Svitolina, who had a bye in the first round.

Thirteenth seed Madison Keys beat Polona Hercog 6-4, 7-6 (7-3) to set up an all-American meeting with Sofia Kenin, who secured a 6-1, 6-2 victory over Italian wildcard Jasmine Paolini.

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