NEW YORK — Venus Williams has been eliminated in the first round of her return to the US Open.
Williams lost 6-1, 7-6 (5) to Alison Van Uytvanck of Belgium on Tuesday afternoon in Arthur Ashe Stadium, where younger sister Serena won a night earlier.
Venus, who turned 42 in June, has not made any pronouncements about her future in tennis. When a reporter wanted to know whether retirement has been on Venus’ mind, she replied: “Right now, I’m just focused on the doubles.”
The Williams sisters will join forces in doubles, teaming up for the first time anywhere since 2018 this week. They were drawn to face the Czech pair of Lucie Hradecka and Linda Noskova in the first round, and will take the court Thursday unless weather or other factors cause delays.
So how did that reunion of a pairing that has earned 14 Grand Slam titles in that event come about?
“It was Serena’s idea. She’s the boss, so I do whatever she tells me to do,” Venus said. “We have had some great wins. It would be nice to add some more.”
Asked if it has been emotional for her to watch Serena make these kind of decisions about her career during this period of her life, Venus replied, “We’re a huge influence on each other and I’m a huge influence on her. For me, I just kind of felt like my role is to make sure I don’t influence her in any way, and that this decision needs to be all hers and her family’s — the newest part of the family, I guess I would say, because obviously we are family.”
This was the 23rd trip to Flushing Meadows for Venus, who made it to the final in 1997 as a teen then won the trophy in 2000 and 2001, and her record 91st time participating in a major tournament.
“She means so much to female tennis. Tennis, in general,” Van Uytvanck said. “She’s a legend.”
Venus had never lost in the opening round at the US Open until 2020, then was absent last year.
Asked what keeps her motivated these days, she answered: “Three letters: W-I-N. That’s it. Very simple.”
Venus was off the tour in singles entirely from August 2021 until less than a month ago and is now 0-4 since her return. Her ranking — which 20 years ago was No. 1 — is 1,504th this week.
“It was definitely the longest time I have been away from tennis and been without a racket in my hand. 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,” she said. “Definitely playing lots of great points, but 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.”
Neither Williams attended the other’s first-round singles match; Venus said she watched Serena on TV but was not there in person because of her own early start the next day.
Their mother, Oracene, and sister, Isha, were in the guest box each time.
Venus struggled from the outset on Tuesday, particularly with her serve and groundstrokes that were not calibrated correctly, with many going into the net or landing long.
After some of her 25 unforced errors, Venus would wince or fiddle with her racket strings or tug on the brim of her visor.
Ten of those miscues came on backhands, far outnumbering her two winners on that side.
There were a half-dozen double-faults and just three aces. She faced 12 break points and dropped four of her 10 service games.
Just 20 minutes in, there was a 4-0 lead for Van Uytvanck, a 28-year-old from Belgium who is ranked 43rd and came into the day with a 1-8 career mark at the US Open.
Venus did make a bit of a stand, breaking to open the second set and holding for 2-0. But that would be her only break of the match and soon enough, Van Uytvanck was putting away a volley winner to close out the win.
Van Uytvanck now meets Clara Burel, who eliminated Wimbledon champion Elena Rybakina 6-4, 6-4.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.