Stefan Bondy: After latest US Open loss, it’s hard to image Venus Williams sticking around much longer

·3 min read

NEW YORK — Watching Venus Williams lose again Tuesday afternoon at the US Open, it’s hard to imagine her continuing at 42 years old.

Father Time, they say, is undefeated. And at this point, he’s just jabbing at a defenseless Venus until the inevitable points to victory.

There were glimpses from Williams Tuesday in the second set, some reasons to hope with her grunts and powerful groundstrokes. The crowd egged on Venus, eager to see those Ashe Stadium tickets translate into a special moment. But the atmosphere and support wasn’t enough for Venus in the first round at Flushing, not even against the little-known Belgian Alison Van Uytvanck.

The 6-1, 7-6 defeat meant Venus is 4-21 as a singles player since 2020. Still, she’s not indulging those retirement questions.

“Right now, I’m just focused on the doubles,” Venus said in her post-match press conference, referencing her forthcoming doubles run at the Open with sister Serena.

It’s been four years since Venus advanced past the third round in a major. She skipped the first three Slams this year, only to return for Tuesday’s quick exit.

Her motivation to continue playing is simple, she says, but also leaves questions about the logic given Venus’s recent record.

“Three letters,” she said. “W-I-N. That’s it. Very simple.”

So that’s where this stands. There’s no timeline to the end. No farewell tour or tributes. It’s yet another contrast to Serena, who solidified her retirement as the story of this tournament by proclaiming her “evolving away from tennis.”

Venus, the 10-time Slam winner, goes about her business quietly. She fades. Serena evolves. And if Tuesday was the end for Venus, it ended with a beeline to the locker room after Van Uytvanck’s match point and a polite wave to the crowd.

“It was definitely the longest time I have been away from tennis and been without a racket in my hand,” Williams said about her long layoff this year. “So it was a completely new experience for me, getting a racket back in my hand and trying to acclimate as quick as possible to be ready for the US Open, which was not easy.

“In the end, it’s just rust. There is nothing you can do about that except for, you know, not be rusty at some point. So I’m very excited about, you know, all the good moments that I had this summer. I definitely walked out there and did my best under the circumstances.”

Less than 24 hours earlier, under the bright lights of Ashe Stadium, Serena was serenaded and celebrated by the US Open. The younger sibling long ago became the bigger celebrity and better tennis player.

But Venus, in case you forgot, was once considered the greater prospect, the can’t-miss all-time great. Her career might’ve been different, with more championships, if it weren’t for Serena’s emergence. And now, like the last decade-plus, Venus is taking the backseat to her sister, even if they both might retire after this tournament.

At least they’ll have one last doubles run.

“It was Serena’s idea,” Venus said about teaming up for the first time since 2016. “She’s the boss, so (I) do whatever she tells me to do.”