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After the one-woman show it was time for Sister Act. Unfortunately, it couldn’t live up to the billing.
The reunion of the greatest doubles players in tennis history—14 Grand Slam titles and a win-loss record that now stops at 176-30—was over almost as quickly as it had begun.
The match was long, over two hours, but the end for Venus and Serena Williams came suddenly. It was as if someone had entered the room halfway through the episode and turned off the show.
After losing the first set in a tiebreak and trailing 7-5 after leading 5-3, it was a similar story of quick demise in set two. The Williams’ went down 3-0 and then trailed 4-2 and 40-0 with Linda Noskova serving.
After Serena Williams’ one-woman show (left), it was time for Sister Act alongside Venus (right)
But the show couldn’t live up to its billing because the sisters lost their doubles in the first round
The duo were defeated by Czech duo Lucie Hradecka (right) and Linda Noskova (left)
From there, they fought back to break and eventually tie the set 4-4. Lucie Hradecka held the serve and abruptly Serena Williams served three match points to the Czechs. One is saved, the other is not. Noskova, just 17 – so younger than Emma Raducanu – shot the perfect volley on the net and it was done.
After so much drama and delirium surrounding Serena’s progress, it was as if the sisters had bundled up out of a side door. Nobody knew exactly what to do.
Hradecka and Noskova were humble enough to look a little embarrassed, as if they knew they had ruined the party.
Yet it is not to be helped. The match was there to be won at several pivotal moments and it was the Czech pair that sealed it off.
Fans of Serena should be happy that their girl wasn’t taken to a third exhausting set or that she won’t be distracted from her lonesome mission by fighting on two fronts as she moves deeper into the tournament.
After so much delirium surrounding Serena, the sisters were bundled out of a side door
In contrast, Flushing Meadows’ spell has been broken. Until here it was possible to believe in fate or destiny or simply that a 40-year-old woman can recapture her youthful peak just by willing it. That is not true. Impossible isn’t nothing, no matter what they say on Madison Avenue.
We believe in Serena because Raducanu won it a year ago, and that was also an unprecedented achievement. But here was a reminder that not all stories have happy endings, and certainly not in sports.
It would have been nice if Venus and Serena got the gang back together and made 15 of them, but they have a combined world ranking of 1,917 and – most importantly – a combined age of 82. Hradecka is a 37-year-old veteran, but she worked with a teenager and it showed in a few moments.
Noskova’s serve game fell apart once in the second set when the pressure of a Williams comeback sapped her confidence, but she was stunning in the final game, the winning run an aggressive bloom of youthfulness.
Colons often look so spectacular, fast and furious, especially when a volley becomes the final word on the matter, or a point. The Williams era is over, period, Noskova seemed to say to the net.
17-year-old Noskova was stunning in the last game and won the match with a wave
But what an era it has been. Not just the roll-call of achievements, which will remain unsurpassed for generations, but the fact that they kept changing the game to the very end.
Local time, 7pm, at Arthur Ashe Stadium is the absolute prime venue for US Open tennis and its host broadcasters. The best players, the best matches, are placed there.
How often will there be a women’s doubles match? A women’s doubles match in the first round. Basically a first round women’s doubles match between an unseeded pair from the Czech Republic and a wildcard partnership of two players in their 40s.
And yet no one argued that they should have played second fiddle to Rafael Nadal, winner of more men’s Grand Slams than any player in history. This was rightly Williams’ stage. Until the very end, they brought a hammer to that glass ceiling.
In the arena, the cardholders seemed to have misunderstood the meaning. There was not the energy that enveloped Serena’s individual journey here.
Perhaps this was a crowd that just got lucky, bought a ticket to the Thursday night session and ended up watching the history girls who we now know was their last performance together.
In the arena, cardholders seemed to have misunderstood the importance of the match
Do you know when the Open Golf is in St Andrews and it’s almost mandatory for commentators to comment on the gallery’s knowledge? The US Open is not like that.
On Tuesday, Raducanu, the defending champion, played in the Louis Armstrong Stadium in front of an audience that never stood still. The game sounded like it was set in the middle of a saloon bar. “Is she American?” a learned lord asked his partner, Raducanu. “No, British.” There was a pause. “Did she win Slams?” “This one, last year,” was the reply. Still, the cocktails are meant to be tasty.
It wasn’t too bad for the Williams’ – at least most people seemed to know who they were – but the chat was a constant.
Then, when the Czech couple prevailed, even that died away and the noise of the air conditioning took over. It was a crowd that sometimes found the French referee’s statement amusing, or only really got excited when a camera came to find them in front of the big screen during intermissions in the game.
At the net, chasing the winners with utter fury, it was clear that Serena still had the fight in her
A man shouted encouragement to the 23-time Grand Slam winner at the top of her serve
A man shouted encouragingly at Serena as she stood at the top of her serve.
When she won the point anyway, he proudly turned to his friend. “I did,” he said. When the Czechs took the game away, there was even a bit of unsportsmanlike booing.
Who knows what this means for Serena’s singles match with Ajla Tomljanovic on Friday? At the net, which drove the winners with utter fury, it was clear that the fight was still there.
She did everything she could to keep her sister at the US Open – although, ironically, Serena’s serve was broken twice in the second set – but it wasn’t enough.
At the end, the sisters left the stage to effusive applause from a crowd, some of whom paid real attention to them for the first time that night.
Things change when Serena walks out alone in the third round. But will it also feel different for her, now that she has found out that she is human after all?
But what an era it has been, the fact that they kept changing the game until the very end