NEW YORK— There was a Williams sister on the market in Arthur Ashe Stadium on Tuesday evening, a lot to the delight of spectators who provided a standing ovation on the finish of the match. Besides this time it was Venus, not Serena, and there was no ceremony, no formal farewell — and, in contrast to a yr in the past, no indication of what the long run would possibly maintain.
Her youthful sister’s enjoying days are completed after one final hurrah at Flushing Meadows in 2022, however Venus Williams remains to be competing, nonetheless striving, even when her age, 43, and a bum knee did her no favors on this muggy night. Williams was eradicated 6-1, 6-1 by Belgian qualifier Greet Minnen within the first spherical of the U.S. Open, her most lopsided loss in 100 profession matches on the Grand Slam event the place she received the trophy in 2000 and 2001.
The gang that appeared thrilled simply to get an opportunity to see Williams play in particular person despatched her towards the locker room with applause and yells. She gave a fast wave and a smile as she walked off, her pink racket bag slung over her left shoulder.
“It was actually nice to listen to the help. I do know the followers have been right here for me perpetually, in order that’s improbable to nonetheless have that help much more than ever,” mentioned Williams, the oldest participant within the discipline. “So it’s an attractive factor, and I like the Open.”
The primary 21 instances Williams entered the occasion, she went 21-0 within the first spherical. However this was her third consecutive opening-round loss since.
Afterward in Ashe, defending champion Carlos Alcaraz superior to the second spherical when his opponent, Dominik Koepfer, stopped enjoying whereas trailing 6-2, 3-2. Koepfer turned his ankle on the match’s eighth level and, whereas he initially continued after getting handled, ultimately conceded.
The 26-year-old Minnen — who threw an uppercut and raised her arms after profitable — was born in August 1997, the month earlier than Williams reached the U.S. Open closing for the primary time.
“For me, it was unbelievable to play a legend like her. I’ve enormous respect,” mentioned Minnen, who’s ranked 97th and entered the night with a 4-12 profession document in Grand Slam matches. “To be there at 43 years previous, it’s superb actually.”
Williams owns seven main championships, together with 5 at Wimbledon. However she has misplaced within the first or second spherical in every of her previous 12 Slam appearances, together with bowing out on the All England Membership in July after taking a tumble in her opening match.
Numerous accidents have restricted her to 10 matches this season — she is 3-7 — after simply 4 in all of 2022. The most recent drawback is with a knee that compelled her to withdraw from a tune-up event in Cleveland just a little greater than every week in the past and left her not sure of whether or not she would be capable to play in New York.
However there she was.
“I’ve to actually thank my docs for serving to me to get right here. That in itself was a blessing,” Williams mentioned. “I like enjoying right here. I actually gave it my all right this moment. I actually performed some nice pictures, however she had some unbelievable solutions to that. I want I may have been extra ready for that.”
The temperature was within the low 70s Fahrenheit (20s Celsius), however the humidity was 90%, and Williams was not capable of keep within the factors with Minnen.
It was shortly 3-0, with Williams — proprietor of what was once some of the intimidating serves within the sport — damaged twice straight away. She misplaced every of her first half-dozen second-serve factors.
Minnen did what she may to maintain Williams off-balance, significantly with drop pictures, and it labored.
“Already after I was 5, 6 years previous, she was on TV virtually each Slam. She was going thus far in each event,” mentioned Minnen, who acknowledged feeling jittery earlier than the match due to the opponent and the scale of the biggest Grand Slam stadium. “She’s at all times been an incredible participant and he or she nonetheless is now. I knew I needed to carry my ‘A’ sport to beat her. Despite the fact that she’s a bit older, she retains hitting the ball excellent.”
For greater than twenty years, Venus and Serena traveled the world collectively, swapping the No. 1 rating and the most important trophies of their sport the best way different siblings would possibly share garments or hobbies.
Now that Serena, who just lately had her second child, is completed enjoying on tour, there are inevitable questions on how for much longer Venus will compete. She has grown used to these queries and grown adept at deflecting them and did so once more Tuesday, unwilling to say for certain whether or not she is going to play once more this season, not to mention past.
Was it exhausting to be at Flushing Meadows with out her sister?
“I imply, I used to be very a lot conscious that Serena wouldn’t be enjoying the event, so I feel I used to be OK. I’ve had an opportunity to get used to that concept even earlier than she retired,” the elder Williams mentioned. “I sort of knew that was coming.”
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