Vesnina Downs Venus, Radwanska Up Next
Published June 25, 2012 12:00
LONDON, England - She has won more matches and more trophies at Wimbledon than any other active player, but this just wasn't her year. Venus Williams lost in the first round of her most treasured tournament on Monday, going quietly in straight sets to in-form Russian Elena Vesnina, 61 63.
Although she only just returned in March after a seven-month lay-off due to illness - Sjögren's Syndrome, to be exact - Williams has had some strong results already, reaching the quarterfinals of three Premier events at Miami, Charleston and Rome. But she fell early at Roland Garros and suffered the same fate at Wimbledon, over on Court 2 - the 'Graveyard' court.
"I didn't have the best start. I don't think that helped," said Williams, who lost the first five games of the match. "But she's been on the tour a while, and players like her with so much experience know how to hold onto a game and how to hold serve. I have to give all credit to her. She played very well today.
"Obviously I would have liked to win the match, but that didn't happen."
But three quarterfinals in six tournaments back is nothing to shake a stick at - and she has already had two wins over Top 5 players since coming back, over Petra Kvitova on hardcourts in Miami and Sam Stosur on clay in Rome.
"It's just a couple of months into getting back," Williams continued. "Life is challenging, but I'm always up for a challenge. The tour will be around for a few more months this year, and I will just continue to try to improve my game.
"I feel like I'm a great player. I am a great player. Unfortunately I'm dealing with circumstances people don't normally deal with in this sport - but I can't be discouraged by that. I have great tennis in me. I just need the opportunity.
"There's no way I'm going to just sit down and give up because I have a hard time the first five or six tournaments back. That's just not me."
There's a silver lining though - Williams' results since her comeback to the tour have gotten her onto the US Olympic team. "I'm really proud of my efforts to get my ranking up for the Olympics. That's one of the toughest things I've ever done in my life. So now I don't really feel that much pressure, to be honest.
"That's all I've fought for this whole year, so I hope I play well there. It will be an honor to just to compete there. I'll try to capitalize on that moment."
Williams was asked if she would be back playing at Wimbledon next year.
"I'm planning on it," she replied.
As for Vesnina, the win was a big one. "I think that's the biggest win in my career," the Russian declared in her press conference. "To beat Venus at Wimbledon is something amazing. I really wanted to play against her because I have so much respect for both Serena and Venus. They're great champions.
"I know she didn't have that many matches under her belt, so I thought I'd have a little bit of an advantage with that. I don't know what to say... Maybe for her it was not one of her best days, but for me it was one of the best days."
Next up for Vesnina will be No.3 seed Agnieszka Radwanska, who recorded a 63 63 win over Magdalena Rybarikova. "It was a long match for those two sets, especially on grass," Radwanska said. "It was a bit of a weird match, but I'm very happy I closed it out. I was in a little bit of trouble in the second set."
Radwanska has rocketed up to No.3 in the world this year but she has the dubious honor of being the only player in the Top 15 never to reach a Grand Slam semifinal - she has been to five Grand Slam quarterfinals, but never further.
"I hope I can do it. I've worked really hard this year and have had some great results - maybe not in the Grand Slams, but in the other big tournaments.
"If I can win some mandatory tournaments, I think I can be in the semifinals of a Grand Slam. If I'll do it, I don't know - but for sure I'm going to try.