What was presupposed to be a primary time, packed-house celebration of the Williams sisters on the U.S. Open become something relatively less festive than planned on Thursday night.
The rain cloud was the Czech doubles team of Lucie Hradecka and Linda Noskova, who unlike Venus and Serena Williams haven’t won 14 Grand Slam doubles titles together.
In truth the 37-year-old Hradecka and the 17-year-old Noskova had never played a professional tournament together before until walking out into the cavernous confines of Arthur Ashe Stadium for his or her first-round match against Team Williams.
But experience didn’t prove decisive because the Czechs, who clicked quickly, prevailed in a decent first set after which closed out their 7-6 (5), 6-4 victory and sure put a downbeat end to the Williamses’ phenomenal profession as a team at this level.
Exhibition tours and even comebacks may await, but this actually felt like the top of an era for certainly one of the best doubles teams in the sport’s history. It got here quickly after the Williamses had succeeded in rallying from a 1-4 deficit within the second set to get back to 4-4. And it got here in an environment that was comparatively subdued despite the sellout crowd of nearly 24,000: quite a contrast with the rock festival atmosphere at Serena Williams’s night singles matches on this yr’s tournament as she has made a stirring run to the third round in her farewell U.S. Open.
Serena Williams on the U.S. Open
The U.S. Open was very likely the tennis star’s last skilled tournament after a protracted profession of breaking boundaries and obliterating expectations.
- Glorious Goodbye: At the same time as Serena Williams faced profession point, she placed on a gutsy display of the ability and resilience which have kept fans cheering for nearly 30 years.
- The Magic Ends: Zoom into this composite photo to see details of Williams’s final moment on Ashe Stadium at this U.S. Open.
- Her Fans: We asked readers to share their memories of watching Williams play and the emotions that she stirred. There was no shortage of submissions.
- Sisterhood on the Court: Since Williams and her sister Venus burst onto the tennis scene within the Nineties, their legacies have been tied to one another’s.
But though Serena Williams was often effective and decisive on Thursday night, she couldn’t hold serve to maintain the sisters within the match at 4-5. At 15-40, Hradecka poached and knocked away a backhand volley winner to shut out the victory, and the sisters were soon packing up in a rush and exiting the court without an on-court interview (or signing autographs despite all of the souvenir balls being prolonged of their direction as they headed for the tunnel).
The Czechs ended up with the ground and the interview with ESPN analyst Mary Joe Fernandez.
“I’m still in shock that we won because played the primary time with one another,” Hradecka said, addressing the group, which seemed relatively stunned as well. “I feel we did a excellent job, and I’m so sorry for you that we beat them, but we’re so pleased we did it.”
Though the evening didn’t deliver the anticipated enchantment (unless you were Czech), it was not entirely bereft of pomp and circumstance. Before the sisters took the court, a video tribute was played on the large screens contained in the stadium, showing footage of them through the many years. But there was no post-match ceremony planned, win or lose, and the sisters didn’t look much within the mood for public speaking after their straight-sets defeat and even declined to provide a news conference, which has not been unusual for them in 2022.
If this was indeed the last time the fabulous Williams sisters share the identical court in an official match, it was surely not the best way they, or simply about anybody else, envisaged it. Their careers have been so routinely cinematic, stuffed with surprise twists and revivals, that a simple opening-round defeat seems misplaced within the story arc.
But pro tennis is a sport, not scripted drama, and the anticlimax takes nothing away from their collective achievements. The Williams sisters were quality over quantity. They rarely played together on tour, restricting most of their appearances to the majors and the Olympics. But their strike rate was phenomenal, particularly once they reached a championship match.
They were 14-0 in Grand Slam women’s doubles finals and 3-0 in Olympic gold-medal matches together. That could be a statistic that shall be noted (and tweeted) for years to return, and though it was a downer of a finish, it was still a fitting, full-circle place to complete.
The Williamses played in Ashe Stadium the yr that it opened in 1997, with Venus reaching the singles final as an unseeded 17-year-old and 15-year-old Serena making her Grand Slam debut in doubles with Venus. That they had white beads of their hair and braces on their teeth, and though they were dynamic and exuberant, they were beaten in the primary round by Jill Hetherington and Kathy Rinaldi, who would later coach each sisters because the captain for the USA’ team within the Billie Jean King Cup.
“They’re each such different personalities but they’re each just such tremendous champions,” said Rinaldi, who was back in Ashe Stadium on Thursday night.
The sisters went on to win two U.S. Open titles together but had not played together at a significant because the 2018 French Open. But at Serena’s request, they put the band back together in Latest York. Serena, who turns 41 this month, has announced her intention to “evolve away” from tennis sometime after the U.S. Open, while Venus, 42, has remained cryptic about her own retirement and evolutionary plans.
“I can’t speak for Venus or what exactly her plans are,” said Eric Hechtman, who coaches each Williams sisters. “But you realize they’re each strong women and each doing it their way. Serena, with the Vogue article, did it on her terms and in her fashion, and each time Venus decides she’s not going to play tennis anymore, she’ll do it her way. People might say of their minds she got lost within the shuffle here, but whatever way she does it’s the best way she desires to do it. They’re different individuals with different objectives, each staying true to who they’re.”
The U.S. Open organizers didn’t hesitate to capitalize on the moment, opening an evening session with a doubles match for the primary time since Sept. 3, 2012, when the Williams sisters faced Nadia Petrova and Maria Kirilenko in a third-round match.
Perhaps it was foreshadowing that the sisters lost that one in straight sets, too, and with Venus’s elimination in the primary round of singles, there is barely one Williams left on this U.S. Open. Serena shall be back on Ashe Stadium for an evening session on Friday night to face the unseeded Australian Ajla Tomljanovic, who joked that she was planning on bringing earplugs to dam out the roars.
No such measures would have been obligatory on Thursday. Rarely have so many U.S. Open fans been so quiet after sundown.