NEW YORK (Reuters) – Venus Williams made a quiet exit from the U.S. Open singles on Tuesday after losing 6-1 7-6(5) to Belgian Alison Van Uytvanck in front of a half empty Arthur Ashe Stadium.
The subdued scene was in stark contraast to what unfolded on Monday when a raucous star-studded crowd filled the world’s biggest tennis venue to cheer on her younger sibling Serena to a 6-3 6-3 win over Danka Kovinic in her Flushing Meadows opener and then celebrated the 23-times Grand Slam winner’s career.
Serena had signalled her intention to retire in a Vogue article in early August, saying she was “evolving away from tennis” but never confirming the U.S. Open as her final event.
That timing mattered little to the United States Tennis Federation (USTA) who turned the evening into a prime-time Serena love in with speeches, video montages and best wishes for the future.
In contrast Venus, twice a winner of the U.S. Open, exited to polite applause and no fanfare.
“I definitely watched it,” said Venus when asked about her sister’s elaborate farewell ceremony. “I wanted to be there, but I had obviously an early start today.
“It’s never easy the first round.
“Definitely was an exciting evening. Obviously my hope is that there is more ahead for her at this tournament.”
While Serena has been coy about her future, Venus has been tight-lipped, with every indication she plans to carry on.
Asked directly after her loss to Uytvanck if she too might be preparing to evolve away from tennis Venus was blunt.
“Right now I’m just focused on the doubles,” said the senior Williams.
While Serena is clearly headed towards retirement she is not there yet with a second round match on Tuesday against second seed Anett Kontaveit and then doubles with Venus.
If one of the two Williams sisters seems more ready for retirement it would be the 42-year-old Venus, who made her Grand Slam debut at the 1997 French Open before 58 of the women in this year’s U.S. Open main draw were even born.
For many the elder Williams has entered semi-retirement, with the former world number one and seven-time Grand Slam champion without a match win since the 2021 Wimbledon.
She has lost five straight in the first round, including all four events she has played this year.
The defeat by 43rd-ranked Uytvanck marked only the second time in 23 U.S. Opens that she has gone out in the first round.
Since 1994 Venus has won at least one WTA Tour match ever year and now that impressive run also appears in jeopardy.
(Reporting by Steve Keating in New York; Editing by Ken Ferris)