By HOWARD FENDRICH – AP Tennis Writer
NEW YORK (AP) — Venus Williams’ welcome and support at Arthur Ashe Stadium on Tuesday afternoon was not the same as for his sister, Serena, a night earlier. Neither does the result.
Venus, who turned 42 in June, made no statements about his future tennis, unlike his little brother, and while she was successful and influential, she too – a seven-time Grand Slam champion; a black woman in a predominantly white sport — fanfare and attention are not the same.
Playing in front of thousands of empty blue seats in an arena that was fairly quiet at first, though growing louder thereafter, Venus went down in the first round of the US Open for the second consecutive appearance, losing 6-1 , 7-6 (5) to Alison Van Uytvanck.
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“She means so much to women’s tennis. Tennis, in general,” Van Uytvanck said. “She’s a legend.”
It was the 23rd trip to Flushing Meadows for Venus, who reached the final in 1997 as a teenager and then lifted the trophy in 2000 and 2001, and her record 91st major tournament appearance.
Venus had never lost in the first round of the US Open until 2020, then was absent last year.
When asked what motivates her these days, she replied, “Three letters: WIN. That’s it. Very simple.”
The night, Emma Raducanu became only the third defending US Open champion to lose in the first round, knocked out by Alizé Cornet 6-3, 6-3. And yet another former champion retired in straight sets when Naomi Osaka, who won two of her four Grand Slam titles in New York, was knocked out by Australian Open runner-up Danielle Collins 7-6 (5), 6-3 in a game. which ended after midnight.
Osaka, a former No. 1, also lost in the first round of French Open this year and slipped to 44th in the standings. She had been 3-0 one-on-one against Collins, but this fun-to-watch and hard-hitting match went the other way.
“When you lose to someone three times,” said 19th-seeded Collins, who has battled injuries this season, “you’ve got nothing to lose, so I tried to go out there and try ‘hope for the best.’
Raducanu, who was 18 and ranked 150th when she won the qualifying title a year agowas hampered by blisters on her hand – she took a medical time-out for treatment after the first set – and was dominated by Cornet, a 32-year-old Frenchwoman who also upset No. 1 Iga Swiatek at Wimbledon .
“Obviously really disappointing. Really sad to leave here. It’s probably my favorite tournament. But also, I mean, in a way, (I’m) happy, because it’s a clean slate,” Raducanu said “I’m going to take the rankings down. (Will) go up my way.
Also in the spotlight was 22-time major champion Rafael Nadal, who returned to the US Open for the first time since 2019 and beat 21-year-old Rinky Hijikata 4-6, 6-2, 6-3. 6-3. . Nadal has shown no serious lingering issues with the torn abdominal muscle that forced him out of Wimbledon in July.
Venus exited the August 2021 singles tour entirely until less than a month ago and is now 0-4 since her return. His ranking – which 20 years ago was No. 1 – is 1,504th this week.
“It’s definitely the longest time I’ve been away from tennis and without a racquet in my hand. So it was a completely new experience for me, picking up a racquet in my hand and trying to acclimatize as quickly as possible. possible to be ready for the US Open, which hasn’t been easy,” she said. “Certainly playing a lot of good points, but in the end, it’s just rust. There’s nothing you can do about it except, you know, not get rusty at some point.
It was Serena who announced to the world on August 9 that she was set to step away from her playing career, not sure when the end would be, although she hinted that it could happen in the future. ‘US Open. So his first-round match on Monday fell into the category of must-see events, drawing a record crowd of more than 29,000 to the tournament grounds, including more than 23,000 at Ashe – and the atmosphere was loud and electric from start to finish in their 6-3, 6-3 victory over Danka Kovinic.
Now Serena, who has won six of her 23 Grand Slam singles titles in New York, will move on to a clash against No. 2 seed Anett Kontaveit in Ashe on Wednesday night.
And then she and Venus will join forces in doubles on Thursday, teaming up for the first time since 2018 this week.
When a reporter asked if retirement was on Venus’ mind, she replied, “Right now I’m just focusing on doubles.”
So how did this reunion of a duo who won 14 Grand Slam titles in this event happen?
“It was Serena’s idea. She’s the boss, so I do whatever she tells me to do,” Venus said. “We have won some great victories. It would be nice to add more. »
Van Uytvanck now meets Clara Burel, who knocked out Wimbledon champion Elena Rybakina 6-4, 6-4.
In other action on a wet and windy second day at the hard court tournament, women’s winners included 2017 champion Sloane Stephens, No. 1 Iga Swiatek, No. 6 Aryna Sabalenka, No. 8 Jessica Pegula, No. 9 Garbiñe Muguruza, No. 9 13 Belinda Bencic – whose opponent Andrea Petkovic has said she is retiring from professional tennis – and No. 22 Karolina Pliskova, a 2016 runner-up in New York.
The men who advanced included 2014 champion Marin Cilic, No. 3 Carlos Alcaraz, No. 7 Cam Norrie, No. 8 Hubert Hurkacz, No. 9 Andrey Rublev, No. 11 Jannik Sinner, No. 15 Marin Cilic, No. 17 Grigor Dimitrov and No. 28 Holger Rune, who then meets John Isner.
Neither Williams attended the other’s singles match in the first round; Venus said she watched Serena on TV but wasn’t there in person due to her own early departure the next day.
Their mother, Oracene, and sister, Isha, were in the guest room each time. On Tuesday, they saw Venus struggle from the start, especially with her serve and groundstrokes not being properly calibrated. So many on the net. So many long landings.
After some of her 25 unforced errors, Venus grimaced or fiddled with her racquet strings or tugged at the edge of her visor.
Ten of those errors came on setbacks, far outpacing his two winners on that side.
There were half a dozen double faults, only three aces. She faced 12 break points and lost four of her 10 service games.
Just 20 minutes later, there was a 4-0 lead for Van Uytvanck, a 28-year-old Belgian ranked 43rd who started the day with a career 1-8 record at the US Open.
Venus took a bit of position, breaking to open the second set and holding 2-0. But it would be his only break of the game and soon enough Van Uytvanck put aside a volley winner to close out the victory.
A night earlier, Serena was celebrated in a post-match ceremony that included a video tribute from Oprah Winfrey and an extensive on-court interview. After that match, Venus simply threw her red gear bag over her left shoulder, carried her racquet in her right hand, and quickly headed for the locker room.
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