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Even after losing in first round of U.S. Open, Venus Williams still enjoying tennis too much to retire

Venus Williams returns a shot to Karolina Muchova

Venus Williams returns a shot to Karolina Muchova during the first round of the U.S. Open on Tuesday in Flushing Meadows. Credit: AP/Frank Franklin II

Venus Williams is not ready to retire.

She made that clear in an Instagram post earlier this year after losing in the first round of the Australian Open. And she made that clear again Tuesday night being after being eliminated in the first round of the U.S. Open for the first time in her career.

Less than an hour after losing to Karolina Muchova, 6-3, 7-5, Williams talked to reporters about the passion she still has for playing.

“Yeah, I love this game,” Williams said. “I’m good at what I do. It’s easy to stay motivated and excited about something so amazing.”

Williams is right. At age 40, she is still very good at what she does. The problem is she isn’t great.

Until her loss Tuesday, Williams was 21-0 in the first round at Flushing Meadows. Watching her get eliminated so early isn’t easy for Open tennis fans who first fell in love with Williams when she reached her first Grand Slam Final here as a 17-year-old in 1997.

Williams was so young, so confident, so filled with possibility that it was hard not to become an instant fan.  When she reached that final , it marked the first time an African-American had done so since Althea Gibson won back-to-back titles in 1957 and 1958.   Even as a teenager, Williams seemed to recognize the importance of her making it to the final.

“I’m tall. I’m black. Everything’s different about me. Just face the facts,” Williams told the Los Angeles Times.

Though her star has never shown as brightly as her sister’s – and really whose has? – it can’t be forgotten that Williams came first. With her height and her power serve, she changed the game and paved her way not only for her younger sister but for a whole new generation of athletes who have been inspired by their play.

Williams would go on to win seven grand slam titles, the first one coming at Wimbledon in 2000. She has won Wimbledon five times and the U. S. Open twice. Williams holds the record for Grand Slam appearances, having played in 86, which bests only her sister Serena, who has played in 75.

Yet, it seems that no one – except maybe Tom Brady – has been dogged by the question of retirement more than Venus Williams.

It’s almost stunning what pops up when you Google Venus Williams and the word retirement. In 2013, a writer from Bleacher Report made the case that she needed to hang it up at age 33 if she didn’t want to “risk marring what has been one of the most dominant careers the game has ever seen.”

Had she done so, we would have missed Williams incredible run in 2017, when she made it to the final of both the Australian Open and Wimbledon.

Does it matter that Williams hasn’t won a WTA event since she did so in 2016 in Taiwan? Not at this point, at least not to her. Williams, according to an interview she gave to Tennis Majors website earlier this summer, made it clear she still has some big goals and wants to challenge for the French and Australian Opens, the two Grand Slams she hasn’t won.

“I would like to win Roland Garros. I was not far from it,” she said. “The same goes for the Australian Open. I was unlucky. I always missed it a little.”

No, she isn’t leaving any time soon.

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