Venus out of US Open with 6-1, 6-1 loss to Minnen

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NEW YORK — Venus Williams‘ 100th career US Open match produced her most lopsided loss at the Grand Slam tournament where she won the trophy in 2000 and 2001.

Williams, at 43, the oldest player in the field, was eliminated 6-1, 6-1 by Belgian qualifier Greet Minnen at Arthur Ashe Stadium in the first round Tuesday night.

The first 21 times Williams entered the US Open, she went 21-0 in the first round. But this was her third consecutive opening-round loss at Flushing Meadows.

“I don’t think I played badly. I think it was just one of those days where it’s just unlucky,” Williams said. “My preparation was definitely minimal. But I don’t think that it necessarily affected the bulk of my performance. I think there are just shots where my footwork wasn’t really there. A lot of backhands I missed where my feet just weren’t there. That’s normal when you don’t spend a lot of time on the court.”

Williams, who received a wild card to compete at Flushing Meadows, was forced to withdraw from last week’s Tennis in the Land event in Cleveland because of a knee injury.

“I was really happy to be here,” Williams said. “When I had to withdraw from Cleveland, I wasn’t sure that I could be here. I have to really thank my doctors for helping me to get here. That in itself was a blessing.”

The 26-year-old Minnen was born in August 1997, the month before Williams reached the US Open final for the first time.

“For me, it was incredible to play a legend like her. I have huge respect,” said Minnen, who is ranked 97th and entered the evening with a 4-12 career record in Grand Slam matches. “To be there at 43 years old, it’s amazing really.”

Williams had only the highest of praise for her opponent.

“I really have to give credit to [Minnen]. It was just incredible, honestly,” she said. “I mean, if she can play like that, you imagine that she can be in the top 10, or perhaps No. 1, or maybe win a Grand Slam, something like that, if she can play at this level.”

Williams — whose younger sister, Serena, stepped away from the sport after last year’s US Open — owns seven major championships, including five at Wimbledon.

But she has lost in the first or second round in each of her past 12 Slam appearances.

The spectators on Tuesday seemed thrilled just to get a chance to see her play in person, sending her toward the locker room with a standing ovation. Williams gave a quick wave and a smile as she walked off, her red racket bag slung over her left shoulder.

The temperature was in the low 70s Fahrenheit, but the humidity was 90%, and Williams was not able to stay in the points with Minnen.

It was quickly 3-0, with Williams — owner of what used to be one of the most intimidating serves in the game — broken twice right away. She lost each of her first half-dozen second-serve points.

Minnen did what she could to keep Williams off-balance, and it worked.

“She has amazing strokes, amazing serve. … I tried to make her move as much as possible,” Minnen said, adding that used drop shots effectively, “which I’m not used to.”

By the end, holding a large lead against one of the greats of the sport, Minnen said she felt some jitters trying to close out the victory.

“My heart was beating really, really fast,” she said.

As for what’s next for Williams in terms of her schedule for the rest of the year: “I don’t know what I’ll do this fall. Definitely too soon to say.”

The Associated Press and ESPN’s D’Arcy Maine contributed to this report.

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