BIRMINGHAM, Great Britain - Venus Williams made a return to WTA tournament doubles on Monday at the Nature Valley Classic.
The seven-time major champion partnered with British upstart Harriet Dart, but the pair were beaten in the first round by Nadiia Kichenok and Abigail Spears, 4-6, 7-6(3), 10-7.
The 22-year-old Dart was just the third player not named Serena who has partnered the elder Williams siser in a WTA event, joining Caroline Wozniacki (Doha 2008), and Madison Keys (Rome 2018).
Dart told the LTA ahead of this week: "What and incredible opportunity to play with such a champion and I’m very excited about it.
"She’s done so much for the women’s game. For me, it’s just a privilege and an honor to be able to play with her."
— LTA (@the_LTA) June 17, 2019
It was a valliant effort for the wildcard team against the doubles specialists, as Dart and Williams came from a break down to win the first set, to delight of the fans who stayed behind on the Ann Jones Centre Court, as the match was moved from its scheduled spot on Court 1.
However, Kichenok and Spears, who've played three tournaments together this year and reached the round of 16 at the French Open, showed their chemistry and quality to come back to win the match.
Though the doubles specialists were unable to win the second set until a tiebreak after leading by a break three times, they won five of the last six points to force a match tiebreak, in which they built an 8-4 lead before holding for the win.
Also in doubles on Monday, French Open singles champion Ashleigh Barty made a winning return alongside Julia Goerges over Kaitlyn Christian and Dailia Jakupovic, 6-3, 6-4, while Kichenok's compatriot Dayana Yastremska and China's Wang Qiang toppled top seeds Gabriela Dabrowski and Xu Yi-fan, 6-4, 7-6(4).