Day and Night Experiences for Venus and Serena Williams at the U.S. Open

Venus and Serena Williams at the U.S. Open

The contrast between Tuesday afternoon with Serena Williams‘ sister Venus at the U.S. Open and Monday night’s electrifying atmosphere was striking.

Kim Benjamin, a devoted follower of the Williams sisters from Baton Rouge, Louisiana, who attended both matches in Arthur Ashe Stadium, commented, “That’s a fair analogy.”

Anyone, not just a sibling, would have found it difficult to top Serena Williams’ triumph over Danka Kovinic of Montenegro in the first round on Monday night, which she won 6-3, 6-3.

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The sellout crowd was on its feet as Serena arrived, triumphed, and left following an on-court tribute with Billie Jean King and a video tribute narrated by Oprah Winfrey. This is Serena’s self-declared last U.S. Open and likely her final tournament. She extended her stay in the singles draw by shaking off the rust and clicking into some familiar gears against Kovinic.

Benjamin, a last-minute ticket buyer, said, “You could feel the intensity, and you knew that Serena would come out and want to give it her all. The audience was tremendous from the minute she stepped out.” It gave people goosebumps.

Tuesday afternoon, however, was entirely different. Even while there were many cries of “We love you, Venus” and “Let’s go, V,” the most significant tennis arena was only about half full, and the atmosphere was pretty subdued.

Part of it has to do with perception. The sisters’ moonshot journey from unkempt public courts in Compton, California, to Grand Slam victories and No. 1 in the world will permanently link them in the public’s mind as players and doubles partners.

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Venus may have played her last U.S. Open singles match on Tuesday after losing 6-1, 7-6 (5) to seasoned unseeded Belgian Alison Van Uytvanck. However, Venus’s plans are still unknown, which has only exacerbated the gap between the sisters’ day and night experiences this week.

They will soon be playing doubles on the court together in a first-round match that will most likely be set for Thursday night at Arthur Ashe Stadium. At one of her increasingly infrequent news conferences on Tuesday, though, Venus was not ready to clear up the uncertainty surrounding her tennis future.

Question: We are aware of Serena’s plans for after the Open. Do you intend to leave tennis behind after the doubles are over and pursue other interests, or is tennis still on your mind?

Venus replied, “Right now, all my attention is on the doubles.”

Any professional athlete’s decision to retire is understandably delicate, but Venus has had to deal with rumours and sly inquiries much longer than most. She had to start fending off questions about retiring because her results were declining to start in her late 20s. Still, they temporarily subsided in 2017 when she had a renaissance season, winning the Australian Open and Wimbledon, making the semifinals of the U.S. Open, and inspiringly returning to the top five rankings at the age of 37.

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She became No. 1 in both singles and doubles, won seven Grand Slam singles titles (five at Wimbledon and two at the U.S. Open), four Olympic gold medals, and 14 Grand Slam doubles titles with her sister during her career, which has been exceptional by almost any standard (they are 14-0 in finals).

However, her moving resurrection in 2017 appears to be her final act. Since then, she has never advanced past the third round of a major tournament and has lost nine times in the first round of Grand Slam competitions. She has also failed to reach another final at any level since that time.

When speculation about her retirement reappeared when she once again lost early at Wimbledon in 2021, she remarked, “When it’s my last, I’ll let you know.”

She currently holds a world rating of 1,504 after missing nearly a year of competition due to injuries before coming back in July.

It was unquestionably the most extended period of time she had gone without picking up a racket or playing tennis. So, picking up a noise again and adjusting as quickly as possible to be ready for the U.S. Open was a different experience for me.

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Because of her ranking, she can only enter tour-level competitions through wild cards, like the one given to her at this U.S. Open. The generousness will eventually end if Venus unexpectedly extends her career through this tournament and season. Young players on the rise also deserve such opportunities. Still, Venus remains an undeniable draw and a touchstone for her many admirers, especially those who have siblings and can identify with her narrative.

She, in my perspective, lives in her sister’s shadow, Benjamin stated. “She doesn’t have the family dynamics that Serena does right now with a husband and a child, in my opinion,” I said. Because she enjoys the game so much, I believe she will stick around for a while. She may be participating because win, lose, or draw, she enjoys playing the game.

That is a loyal fan’s opinion, but that is not what Venus said after her most recent loss. The question posed to her keeps her out there on the court at this juncture in her career.

She immediately replied, “Three letters.” “W-I-N. I’m done now. Very basic

If so, this must be a depressing time, but perhaps it’s best not to make any assumptions.

She has had several chances to withdraw and take in the attention gracefully. Still, instead, she has persisted in going to the practice court with Eric Hechtman, the coach she now shares with Serena, and stepping back into the arena despite her initial step being nearly as swift.

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With the less-than-full audience giving her plenty of encouragement, she forced Van Uytvanck, ranked 43rd, into a tiebreaker by raising her level in the second set. But in the end, she could not provide enough consistency or form.

Venus remarked, “In the end, it’s just rust.” Nothing can be done about that other than, you know, not getting rusty at some point.

She is currently 0-4 in singles matches in 2022, but Arthur Ashe Stadium is not yet over for her. On Thursday, turn on the lights.

She had some parting comments as she made her way to the front gate in the daylight, even though Benjamin, who was on her way back to Baton Rouge, wouldn’t be able to attend that session.

Venus, please be kind to her, she said. “Please.”

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