At age 37, it’s never quite so easy for Venus Williams anymore. But here she is, still in mix at the U.S. Open, her 19th appearance at Flushing Meadows since her spectacular debut in 1997.
Back then she lost in the final to Martina Hingis, and went on to win two Opens in 2000 and 2001. That’s a long time since that last title, but she clings to the dream.
Williams defeated Viktoria Kuzmova, 6-3, 3-6, 6-2, Monday in her opening match on Ashe Stadium. The 19-year-old Kuzmova, a qualifier from Slovakia, was born in 1998, a year after Williams made her first appearance in the Open.
Age has its advantages.
“There’s a point in your life or in your career where things click, and from there on it’s like, OK, I think I know how to win matches, how to handle myself in situations,” Williams said. “That motif continues.”
How long that might continue, she hasn’t a clue.
“I don’t know. We’ll see,” she said. “I have no plans. Zero.”
Garbine Muguruza, the Wimbledon champion and third seed here, defeated Varvara Lepchenko, 6-0, 6-3, in the opening match on Ashe Stadium.
Asked who she thought the favorites were for the Open title, she replied: “I would say the top players.”
“But you’re one of them,” the questioner asserted.
“I know I’m one of them,” she replied through a modest smile. “I know that. Of course in the paper, that’s what I would say. At the end, the one that plays better is going to win.”
One of those better players, Johanna Konta, won’t be around at the end. Konta, the seventh seed, was ousted at the beginning Monday by Aleksandra Krunic, No. 78 in the world rankings, 4-6, 6-3, 6-4. Konta was one of the eight players who had a chance, had she won the tournament, to take over the world No. 1.
“I think with all due respect to her, she played very well,” Konta said. “She played consistently much better than I did. I think in terms of effort and fight, I competed until the very last point. I think the level of tennis by her was just better.”