In the first round of the 2023 US Open, Belgian qualifier Greet Minnen toppled two-time champion Venus Williams 6-1, 6-1 in Tuesday's night match on Arthur Ashe Stadium.
Former World No.1 Williams was playing the US Open main draw for the 24th time in her storied career. The American won back-to-back singles titles at her home Grand Slam event in 2000 and 2001, to go along with her five Wimbledon singles titles.
Under the Ashe lights on Tuesday evening, Williams contested the 100th US Open match of her career. It was also her 356th career Grand Slam match; only her sister Serena Williams has played more (423) in the Open Era (since 1968).
But on Tuesday night, the 43-year-old was eliminated by World No.97 Minnen in 1 hour and 13 minutes of play, in their first meeting.
"I have to give credit to my opponent," Williams told the press. "I mean, there wasn't a shot she couldn't make. Even when I hit really amazing shots, she just hit a winner or a drop shot.
"I don't think I played badly. I think it was just one of those days where it's just unlucky."
Bolstered by a plethora of winning drop shots, Minnen fended off all of the six break points she faced, and had 24 winners to Williams's 10.
"Incredible to play a legend like [Williams]," Minnen said on court, after her win. "I have huge respect for her, to be there at 43 years old, it’s amazing.
"She has amazing strokes, amazing serve, so I really tried to play aggressive, make her move as much as possible, even hit a few drop shots, which I’m not used to -- but I’ll keep doing it, I think."
The 26-year-old Minnen has had a resurgent season after dropping out of the Top 200 by the end of last year. Minnen has won two ITF Challenger titles in 2023 and also reached two WTA 125 finals this year, as she has worked her way back inside the Top 100.
Minnen's career-best Grand Slam performance is a run to the US Open third round two years ago. She will face a fellow qualifier, American Sachia Vickery, in the second round on Thursday.
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World No.2 Aryna Sabalenka closed out the night's activity with a 6-3, 6-2 win over Belgium's Maryna Zanevska. Sabalenka overcame early serving woes to ease through her opening match after 1 hour and 18 minutes. Sabalenka struck five double faults in her first two service games, but Zanevska was unable to sustain pressure.
"If I would be you," Sabalenka joked with the crowd afterwards, "after the third double fault I would just leave this stadium. So thank you for being patient."
Sabalenka takes the first!— US Open Tennis (@usopen) August 30, 2023
The No. 2 seed jumps out against Zanevska! pic.twitter.com/RnxDY1ZM9E
Sabalenka kept her cool despite the early yips to finish the match with a 74% first-serve percentage. She hit 27 winners to 23 unforced errors in the match. Zanevska, who was playing her final professional tournament, was held to just nine winners in the match.
Sabalenka will face Great Britain's Jodie Burrage in the second round on Thursday.