Venus Williams was sent packing from the US Open on Wednesday after her sister Serena’s center court clash was among dozens of matches postponed because of rain on a gloomy third day at the last grand slam of the year.
Around four hours of play were washed out,forcing tournament officials to drastically revise the schedule so Andy Murray could finally begin his title defence. Also Read: Murray opens title defence with dominant win
The foul weather could not save Venus from suffering her third successive second-round defeat at the U.S. National Tennis Center.
Once the undisputed Queen of Flushing Meadows,the 33-year-old American,the second oldest player in the women’s singles draw,continues to struggle.
On Wednesday,she was beaten 6-3 2-6 7-6(5) by China’s Zheng Jie after the pair slugged it out for more than three hours.
She did provide a reminder of her fighting qualities as she pushed the match into a deciding tiebreak but ultimately came up just short.
“I just dug myself into so many holes the whole match.” she said. “I just fought as hard as I could to get out of them,but sometimes it wasn’t enough.”
Two other former champions,Argentina’s Juan Martin Del Potro and Australia’s Lleyton Hewitt,fared better,winning tough four-set battles to set up a second-round clash.
Del Potro,the winner in 2009,beat Guillermo Garcia-Lopez of Spain 6-3 6-7(5) 6-4 7-6(7) on the Arthur Ashe Stadium centre court while Hewitt,who won in 2001,wore down American qualifier Brian Baker 6-3 4-6 6-3 6-4.
In the women’s draw,Poland’s Agnieszka Radwanska,the third seed,easily defeated Maria-Teresa Torro-Flor of Spain 6-0 7-5 while China’s Li Na beat the rain to dispose of Sweden’s Sofia Arvidsson 6-2 6-2.
“I was a little bit happy because at least I’m done for my job today,” said Li.
Only five matches were completed in the morning before the rain arrived,sending players and spectators scampering for cover.
Players made a brief return to the courts when the drizzle stopped midway through the afternoon but another downpour saw them retreat to the locker room,forcing organisers to cancel 28 matches.
Serena was due to play Galina Voskoboeva on center court but their second round meeting was among the matches postponed in a bid to complete the men’s first round.
Because of the unique scheduling at the U.S. Open,where the men’s first round is played over three days,Murray was not scheduled to play his opening match until Wednesday night.
His match against Frenchman Michael Llodra did not begin until almost 10 p.m. local time but at least he avoided the prospect of starting his defence on day four.
New York’s fickle weather has been a major talking point at Flushing Meadows for years with each of the last five men’s finals spilling into a third week because of rain delays.
The problem has been exacerbated because of the tournament’s controversial scheduling.
Apart from playing the men’s first round over three days,the U.S. Open was previously the only grand slam where both singles semi-finals and finals were played on successive days,leaving no room for catch-up if rain falls on the last weekend.
Tournament organisers tweaked the schedule this year to provide a day off between the semi-finals and final,but remain powerless to combat Mother Nature.
The U.S. Open is the only grand slam where the main stadium is not covered by a roof. For years,U.S. Tennis Association officials balked at the idea of building one because of the cost of covering Arthur Ashe Stadium,the largest tennis stadium in the world.
But they have finally relented,announcing two weeks ago that they would commence a massive renovation program,which would include a roof,but not until 2016 at the earliest.