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Retirement shadows Venus Williams after latest defeat

ESPN staff
August 28, 2013 « Live County Championship coverage | Chartbeat test »
Fading champion ... Venus Williams on the attack during her defeat to Zheng Jie © AP
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Venus Williams lost 6-3, 2-6, 7-6 (5) to Zheng Jie of China on a wet and wretched third day at the US Open. The match lasted two minutes over three hours, tying for the fifth-longest women's match since 1970 at the US Open. The third set alone lasted one-and-a-half hours.

Inevitably the post-match questions were all about William's future. In one breath she brushed aside the unspoken reference to retirement. "I definitely want to come back for the atmosphere" but she then added: "[But] next year's Open is so far away right now."

At 33, slowed the past couple of years by an autoimmune disease that saps energy, and hampered much of this season by a bad back, Williams knows by now that such queries are going to arrive, especially as it is the third year in a row that she exited the tournament after two rounds. "If I didn't think I had anything in the tank, I wouldn't be here," said Williams, who was ranked No. 1 in 2002 and is currently 60th. "I feel like I do, and that's why I'm here."

Williams, egged on by a crowd who were at the extreme edge of partisan, came close but faltered when it mattered. On the final two points, she missed a volley, then a return. She wound up with 44 unforced errors in all, half on forehands, in part because Zheng kept scrambling along the baseline to get to balls and block them back, making Williams hit extra shots.

Both third seed Agnieszka Radwankska and fifth seed Li Na made it safely through to the third round of the US Open before heavy rain delayed play at Flushing Meadows.

Radwankska enjoyed a strong start to her match with Maria Teresa Torro-Flor and did not lose a game until the second set of her 6-0 7-5 victory. The 24-year-old will play Russia's Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova next after the 32-seed saw off Australian Ashleigh Barty 6-4 6-0.

Na recorded a comfortable 6-2 6-2 win in her second round match with Sweden's Sofia Arvidsson and will now face Laura Robson. "I was so lucky before the rain came that I finished the match so I don't have to wait and warm up and come to the court again," Li said. "For me, I'll just relax for the rest of the day and do whatever I want to do."

Bad weather halted play once more on day three at Flushing Meadows © Getty Images
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