SINGAPORE - Former world No. 1 Venus Williams beat Jelena Ostapenko 7-5 6-7(3), 7-5 in a thrilling encounter that lasted over three hours at the Singapore Indoor Stadium on Tuesday (Oct 24) night.
World No. 5 Williams and seventh-ranked Ostapenko were seeking their first wins of their BNP Paribas WTA Finals Singapore campaign, having lost their first matches on Sunday.
A rollercoaster first set saw both players exchange breaks early, with Ostapenko consolidating the break to lead 5-3.
Williams then rallied to win four straight games and take the first set 7-5.
The American won the next two games, breaking WTA Finals debutante Ostapenko for the advantage in the second set. Ostapenko, 20, broke back with a backhand winner, and held serve convincingly to even the score.
The score remained tied at 3-3, and Williams then played a strong service game to gain a 4-3 advantage.
Both held serve, and Ostapenko saved a match point at 4-5 down to equal the score again.
The set eventually went to a tiebreak, which Ostapenko won 7-3 after Williams sliced a backhand into the net.
Ostapenko served first in the third set and saved three break points to win the opening game. But Williams broke serve after her opponent served four double faults in the third game.
Both players again exchanged breaks of serve, until Ostapenko saved three break points in the ninth game to hold serve and lead 5-4.
Big serving from Williams kept the 37-year-old in the match, and she won the next game on her fourth break point to serve for the match.
Serving for the match, there was no turning back for the seven-time Grand Slam champion as she held steady, hitting a backhand winner cross court on her second match point.
Said Williams after the match as the crowd applauded: "Sometimes we need some luck, I don't know it it was luck, I just needed to work for every point as everyone is playing really well here.
"It's not easy to lose the first match … you have to fight, what else can you do except try to fight and live another day.
"Honestly, it was all credit to her, she came up with a lot of shots that you can't prepare for and that's why she's here in this tournament - she has a lot of talent and I was just happy to win that last point."
Whether Williams qualifies for the semi-finals depends on her next match against world No. 2 Garbine Muguruza tomorrow.
The Spaniard lost 2-6, 2-6 to world No. 3 Karolina Pliskova in the other match on Tuesday (Oct 25) night.
Pliskova, who had beaten Williams, advances as the White Group winner, while Ostapenko is out of the WTA Finals.