After a promising start, Venus Williams fell into the first singles match again

For an unforgettable Monday night in front of an out-of-date crowd at the Citi Open, Venus Williams It seems that she has rediscovered her former dominance.

Battling the lingering heat and humidity in Washington, D.C., in the evening โ€” and the Canadian qualifiers Rebecca Marino Across the net – Williams chased every ball and set up a clinic with her strength and determination. It was hard to believe that this was her first singles match in nearly a year.

Then reality, and Williams’ 42 years, suddenly seemed to catch up with her. Tired and slow in the second set, she had few answers to Marino’s powerful serve. Williams struggled in her service games as well, scoring three consecutive double faults late in the set.

But Williams’ signature tenacity remains largely intact, and she dug deep and found another level early in the decision. I took a 4-1 lead and victory looked almost certain.

It was not to be. Marino, ranked 111th in the world, came back again, winning the next five matches and eventually the match 4-6, 6-1, 6-4.

The fairy tale of Williams’ comeback ended before it really began.

“I didn’t think I played well that many times,” Williams said after the match. โ€œJust trying to get some rust off. That’s only to be expected. All I can do is just play in another tournament and play better.

Monday’s win, and perhaps a more significant measure this week, would have been the last legendary moment in a career filled with them. The seven-time main champion and former world number one has not played a singles match since the Chicago Women’s Open in August 2021, when she lost in the first round in straight sets. Su Wei Hsieh.

Currently unranked due to her lack of recent activity, Williams received a wild card to play at the Citi Open. She described playing in the tournament as a “homecoming” in the current situationShe played for the Washington world team TeamTennis for nine seasons.

It would have been the perfect place to start her last triumphant comeback.

Her prolonged absence from the competition, as well as her lackluster results in recent years (Williams have won just four games since the start of 2020) have sparked rumors of a retirement earlier this season. But Williams surprised fans by returning to the court in mixed doubles at Wimbledon earlier this summer by teaming up with Jimmy Murray. The duo – instant favorites on the grounds of the All England Club – reached the Round of 16 before falling to Alicia Barnett and Johnny O’Mara in an epic tiebreak that ended 18-16 in the decider. .

Williams had not intended to play at Wimbledon when she arrived in London but said she was inspired by her sister SerenaReturn and “I saw the grass” and “excited.” She and Murray got a late wild card to play at the event. Williams may have been rejuvenated with her time in that tournament, then received a Wild card for singles play in Washington as well as the upcoming 1000-level tournaments in Toronto and Cincinnati. Williams will need a wild card to compete in the US Open, which begins August 29, but is expected to claim one in this year’s final Grand Slam.

Williams will have a couple more chances to get ready for New York over the coming weeks, and there were definitely aspects of her Monday game against Marino that she feels good about as she heads north of the border.

The future outside of New York is still more uncertain. Williams has given few hints about plans in the sport and has been very silent when it comes to questions about her status on the Tour. Speculation about her inevitable retirement will likely continue, especially if she is unable to score a win in any of the leading events ahead of the US Open.

However, as Monday’s flashes showed, it may not be over yet. Williams spoke at length about her love of the game and the competition, citing it as her primary motivation to keep going at this point. As evidenced by the adoring crowd in the nation’s capital, tennis will happily be around for as long as it takes.

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