Venus Williams waves to the crowd after losing to Alison Van...

Venus Williams waves to the crowd after losing to Alison Van Utyvanck in the first round of the U.S. Open at Arthur Ashe Stadium on Tuesday. Credit: Errol Anderson

Venus Williams has played her last singles match at this year’s U.S. Open. The question that remains is whether she has played her last singles match, period.

Williams bowed out in the first round of the U.S. Open Tuesday afternoon, losing 6-2, 7-6 (5) to Alison Van Uytvanck. The loss came in Arthur Ashe Stadium on the same court where her sister Serena fended off retirement with a straight- set win a night earlier.

Venus, 42, is the oldest player on the tour and 15 months older than Serena. Earlier this month, Serena announced that the U.S. Open would likely be her last tournament. After Tuesday’s loss, Venus sidestepped a question about whether she also had plans to “evolve away” from the sport like her sister.

“Right now, I’m just focused on the doubles,” Venus said.

The Williams sisters were granted a wild-card entry to play doubles together. Their first match will be against the Czech pair of Lucie Hradecka and Linda Noskova on Thursday. It will mark the first time the sisters have teamed up since the 2018 French Open. They have won 14 majors in doubles with their last win coming in 2016 at Wimbledon.

Williams said it was Serena’s idea that they play together again this year. “She’s the boss, so I do whatever she tells me to,” Venus said with a smile.

One gets the feeling that Venus doesn’t mind being Robin to Serena’s Batman. She certainly wasn’t going to do anything on Tuesday to take any of the focus off her spotlight-loving sister.

Serena and her pending retirement have certainly been a major focus of the tournament. According to a USTA news release, the U.S. Open set multiple attendance records on Opening Day. For the night session alone, a record 29,402 fans entered the complex at Flushing Meadows. Venus’ match, by contrast, was about half filled.

While Serena played her first match in diamond encrusted sneakers and a self-designed black dress with six layers representing each of her six U.S. Open titles, Venus played Tuesday in an athletic-looking green skirt and top that would not have looked out of place on a rack at Dick’s Sporting Goods.

Williams struggled from the get-go and would finish with 25 unforced errors. After Van Uytvanck put away a volley winner to win the second-set tiebreak and close out the win, Williams shook hands with her opponent and then walked out of the stadium as fans stood and applauded.

“She means so much to female tennis. Tennis, in general,’’ Van Uytvanck said after the match. “She’s a legend.’’

The match was the 23rd appearance at Flushing Meadows for Williams, who made it to the finals in 1997 as a teenager and won the trophy in 200 and 2001. All told she has won 49 singles titles, including seven Grand Slams, and has earned more than $42 million in prize money.

She hasn’t appeared in a major final, however, since losing to Serena in the 2017 Australian Open. It’s been four years since Venus advanced past the third round in a major. She took all of last year off and did not play this year until a month ago. She is now 0-4 since her return.

“It was definitely the longest time I have been away from tennis and been without a racket in my hand,” she said. “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 U.S. Open, which was not easy.

“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.”

Not be rusty at some point? It sounds as if Williams may have some plans for beyond next year. At least one observer wouldn’t be surprised.

Said ESPN’s Mary Jo Fernandez during yesterday’s telecast: “I think she loves the games, wants to keep going.”

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