US Open 2022 – Venus and Serena Williams’ doubles exit marked the final act of one of the most dominant duos in tennis

NEW YORK — As the game slipped past the Williams sisters on Thursday night, the crowd swung between despair and short-lived excitement.

The great moment from Venus and Serena was greeted by a raucous celebration. But it was when things went astray that the true emotion of the occasion betrayed.

Inside Arthur Ashe, there was a collective acceptance that we would probably never see the two together again on the pitch.

As the Czech duo of Lucy Hradka and Linda Noskova drift apart, unforced errors or loss of break points get whispered encouragement from the audience, hoping their heroines will once again Summons tennis wonders. Give them another encore.

Unless she changes her mind, Serena said she will be leaving the sport within the next 10 days. The near-term future of Venus is unclear. She played a supporting role in Serena’s farewell tour, in the shadow of her sister.

While Serena’s two-win singles match at the U.S. Open has been under the lights in an atmosphere similar to a once-in-a-century boxing match, Venus lost to Alison van Uytvank on Tuesday. The game was in the midday sun in the second half – full Arthur Ashe.

No montage to welcome her – but again no announcements about her future. When asked earlier this week if she was also thinking about her own evolution, she replied that she was just focusing on doubles with Serena.

“I think Venus deserves more credit,” said a fan who traveled from Nebraska to see her heroine this morning. “But it’s Serena’s game – Venus is a good sister.”

This is her role for the past year. Venus has been building her career and continuing to return to tennis, while Serena has been building her own narrative around her future in and away from the sport.

Serena called on the two to play doubles here — “She’s the boss,” Venus said.

“I think it’s very important for her to be involved,” Serena said Monday. “She’s my rock. I’m super excited to play with her and do it again.”

Of course Venus answered the call. “We have a huge influence on each other, and I have a huge influence on her,” Venus said earlier this week. But when it comes to Serena’s “evolution,” Venus knows how to play it.

“I just feel like my role is to make sure I don’t affect her in any way, and that decision has to be hers and her family’s,” Venus said. “I thought I’d say the newest addition to the family because obviously we’re a family.”

“The most important thing is to do things her own way,” Venus added.

We saw this on Thursday. It was Serena who led the two of them to practice. It was Serena who led the way into Arthur Ashe. But in the end it was Venus who led them away.

There’s an unavoidable nostalgia surrounding these two, especially in this part of the world. While Venus’ proudest tennis memory may be at Wimbledon, the pair are well-loved in New York.

Before the sisters entered, a montage of snapshots of their lives narrated by Questlove played out on the pitch. The two Czech players did their best to stay focused as clips laden with silverware rolled over them. The montage attempts to sum up the Williams sisters’ legacy in 71 seconds. If Norskova’s attention falters in the shortest amount of time, she’ll see plenty of footage of her life. By the time she was born in November 2004, the sisters had 10 singles Grand Slams and six doubles titles.

“It’s a 2-person sabotage team,” Questlove says in the montage. “The 2 big 2 and even start 2 descriptions of their impact on the game. We were lucky because in 2 years we saw 2 of the greatest athletes and showed us how 2 became 1.”

It ends with Questlove making one last request: “PS it’s not 2 late 2 change your mind now. Just our 2 cents.”

For Serena, that may well be the case. But Venus may continue to play a role. She has been answering questions about retirement for years. Since her return to competitive tennis – her first injury return in 11 months was at this year’s Wimbledon mixed doubles – the focus of questioning has shifted to figuring out why she’s back and what to expect. What is her motivation to continue playing tennis.

At Wimbledon, she was inspired by the sight of grass and Serena playing. On other occasions, she said she came back because of her love of tennis. She often uses the word “grateful” when asked about her feelings.

But there was that old steely determination this week. When asked what drives her now, she replied: “Three letters – WIN. That’s it. Very simple.”

Venus’ goal on Thursday was to “be on my side and be a good sister.” For the two men, the rivalry was burning as always, and while they lost outright, it wasn’t for lack of intensity, focus or desire. They are dealing with a unit that is precise and devoid of any emotion. Hradka and Norskova sent the Williams sisters to the field and won 7-6 (5), 6-4.

The Williams sisters have long been like their own Tour de France team – sometimes one sprints up front while the other stays in the wake. In other cases, they sprinted against each other. Sometimes one would fly on the field while another would support her off the field. Venus called it “energy exchange and giving exchange” on Tuesday.

As Venus’ U.S. Open draws to a close, she’ll help Serena prepare for Friday’s third-round match against Ajera Tomljanovic. Venus will be in her box as usual, as Serena has done for her before, and will likely do so in the future.

It felt as if Venus wasn’t ready to deal with tennis. Back at Wimbledon 2021, she said: “When it’s my last match, I’ll tell you. I’ll whisper in your ear.”

If she whispered on a Thursday night, the whole place would go quiet and listen. That’s the collective control the Williams sisters still hold over their adoring public, who want their greatest hits to be performed one last time. Serena has at least one more. Venus may have another tour next year.

But they waved to the crowd as they left Ashe, a low-key gesture that capped the final act of one of tennis’ most dominant combined forces.


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