NEW YORK -- When Venus Williams made her major debut at Roland Garros in 1997, as a 16-year-old, 58 of the women in this year’s US Open main draw were not yet born.
Now 42, Williams was making her Open Era record 91st Grand Slam main-draw appearance. But unlike sister Serena, there won't be a Round 2 for the elder sibling.
On Tuesday afternoon, Venus lost a first-round match, 6-1, 7-6 (5), to Alison Van Uytvanck. The first question in her post-match press conference was about her future plans.
“Right now I’m just focused on the doubles,” she said. She did not elaborate.
When Venus swiftly walked off Ashe, there were no video tributes from Beyoncé and Oprah, no applause from a Who’s Who of high-profile fans of tennis. It was a simple, dignified exit.
In a career that began in 1994, realistically there can’t be many matches left, but Venus hasn’t said a public word about her future in tennis. She has watched, gracefully and graciously, as the Serena tributes have washed over the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center.
Unlike Serena, who plays a second-round match Wednesday night, Venus didn’t quite rise to the occasion. The last point of the first set underlined where Venus is these days. Once one of the game’s fastest players, she couldn’t track down a drop shot from Van Uytvanck, dumping it into the net. In the second set she won a spectacular six-deuce, 13-minute game -- only to be broken two games later.
Venus is 0-4 in matches since coming back earlier this month in Washington, D.C. from a nearly one-year layoff.
Van Uytvanck, ranked No.43, is a 28-year-old Belgian, who won only her second first–round match at the US Open in 10 tries. She is the 360th different opponent Williams has faced throughout her career.
Van Uytvanck will face France's Clara Burel in the second round. A qualifier, Burel earned her spot by quietly taking out Wimbledon champion Elena Rybakina in straight sets.
Iconic.— US Open Tennis (@usopen) August 30, 2022
No one has played more Grand Slam singles tournaments than Queen Vee. pic.twitter.com/3xJ3PTTERT
It’s ironic that it’s only because of Serena’s dazzling success that Venus finds herself somewhat unsung. Subtract Serena from the active player list and it would be -- will be? -- Venus at the top of many categories:
- Seven Grand Slam singles titles
- 49 titles overall
- $42-plus million in prize money
- 815 match wins
To give you an idea of how dominant she has been, Petra Kvitova is third among active players with 29 titles -- 20 fewer than Venus.
Here’s another way to slice it: In a vacuum without Serena how many majors would Venus have won? She lost in nine Grand Slam singles finals -- seven times to Serena after beating her in the 2001 US Open final. Even if you conservatively give her, say, five more majors, that would be a dozen -- three times as many as Naomi Osaka, who is next in line among active players with four.
Venus will be back on the court, at least once more this week, when she and Serena get started in the doubles draw. Venus was asked about her upcoming doubles match with Serena.
“More than anything,” she said, “I want to hold up my side of the court.
“Be a good sister.”