When Venus Williams entered Center Court for her 24th Wimbledon appearance at age 43, she received a standing ovation, holding a green exercise band over her head with both hands and stretching it as she walked to her side seat.
Once her first round match against Elina Svitolina began, Williams played like a flashback version of herself. Those big serves. Those sharp lines. Quickly, she was within a point of a 3-0 lead on Monday.
And then, moving forward to attempt a volley, Williams slipped on the green grass. His right foot gave way. She collapsed to the ground. She squealed and grabbed her right knee, which was already covered by a beige sleeve. Williams was treated twice by a coach, including taping her knee during a medical timeout after the first set, and although the American played on, she failed to beat 2019 Wimbledon semifinalist Svitolina in a 6-loss. 4, 6-3. .
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Williams was the oldest player in the field this year and the fourth-oldest to compete in the Wimbledon main draw. Svitolina was just 2 years old when Williams made her Wimbledon debut in 1997 and just 5 when Williams first won the event in 2000.
She would also capture titles at the All England Club in 2001, 2005, 2007 and 2008, along with a pair of US Open trophies in singles, plus 14 in the women’s doubles with her younger sister, Serena, who retired afterwards. last season.
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The older Williams was also the runner-up at Wimbledon four times, most recently during a 2017 resurgence, a season in which she reached a total of two finals and another semifinal at the majors. Since then? Williams, who announced her diagnosis with Sjögren’s syndrome, an autoimmune disease that drains energy and can cause joint pain, in 2011, has lost in the first round at 10 of her most recent 15 Grand Slam events.
There were some vintage moments on Monday. Serves up to 117 mph. Big cuts on two-handed forehands and backhands that produced clean winners or forced errors from Svitolina.
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There were also 33 unforced errors, 18 more than Svitolina. Williams’ total in that category included eight double faults.
Still, the crowd certainly appreciated the persistence and effort Williams displayed Monday, rising to greet her and showering her with applause as she walked off the court with a quick wave.