World No. 7 Venus Williams, defending her championship this week at the Auckland Classic, was ushered out in the opening round by unheralded 18-year-old Daria Kasatkina on Tuesday.
Williams led 3-1 in the third set, but would not win another game, falling to the No. 75-ranked Russian 7-6(4), 3-6, 6-3. A mind-blowing 72 unforced errors didn’t help the effort of the former No. 1, who looked stunned in her chair while the Russian teen did her winner’s on-court interview.
The elder Williams sister is by no means a lock for the Rio Olympics.
The event has a June 6 rankings cut-off, and to qualify in singles she will have to be among the Top 4-ranked Americans. Currently the second-highest American behind sister Serena, over the next six months she will have to fight off a number of young guns on her tail — Madison Keys (current No. 18), Sloane Stephens (30), Coco Vandeweghe (37), and Madison Brengle (40).
Last year the former No. 1 dropped as low as No. 24 during the year on the WTA Rankings.
At 35 years old and suffering from Sjogren’s Syndrome, her best days are behind her, despite an impressive surge at the end of last year that launched her back among the Top 10.
The Olympic tennis field of 64 singles players is determined by world rankings, with no more than four women’s singles players per country.
Losing 280 points this week from winning Auckland last year will not help her effort. Can Venus keep it together over the next six months to qualify for Rio? It could be her career swan song, if she doesn’t call it a career the following month at the US Open.
If she can make it, you can’t think of a much better way to go out than possibly adding to her one singles and three doubles Olympic gold medals.
TENNIS-X NEWS, NOTES, QUOTES AND BARBS
Ya gotta think that maybe Flavia Pennetta is regretting her rash decision in announcing her retirement after winning the 2015 US Open, rather than raking in the guarantees/cash this year as a standing US Open champion and Top 5 player?…Roger Federer says he hopes to continue his aggressive play in 2016: “I had a great season last year, playing aggressive tennis. Of course, players adapt so we will see how aggressively I can play this year. I’ve been playing really well for a year and a half now, since I came back from my back injury. That’s been very encouraging.”…Janko Tipsarevic is still not fully recovered from his knee surgery following the US Open…Bernard Tomic says he might not be able to fit playing the Olympics for Australia into his busy schedule: “If the opportunity comes up, I will see what the schedule is…I played at the Olympics in 2012 and lost in my first round. It’s an interesting competition.” — Interesting? Hopman Cup mixed doubles is “interesting,” the Olympics is the m-f-ing Olympics. Go back to school…Sam Stosur says she is tired of the Australian media spotlighting her historic poor play in January: “I’m not the only player to have lost early rounds and not have a good start to the season but because I’m Australian it gets highlighted.” — Wah…On Monday Serena Williams pulled out of the Hopman Cup exhibition after suffering a knee injury in practice. On the next day she retired mid-match against Jamila Wolfe…Petra Kvitova remains the only player born in the 1990s to win a Grand Slam title…Venus Williams is possibly set to compete in her fifth Olympic Games, an accomplishment which would match the record of Arantxa Sanchez-Vicario…Martina Hingis is set to compete in her first Olympics in 19 years…Serena Williams has won four Olympic gold medals (1 singles, 3 doubles) as has Venus…American Shelby Rogers will play ITF events in Florida rather than making the Australia trip for WTA events and the Australian Open in January…Maria Sharapova (left arm) and Simona Halep (Achilles) withdrew from Brisbane on Tuesday before playing a match. Sharapova, who was the Brisbane defending champ, in the off-season played the International Premier Tennis League, and now won’t play until the Australian Open…So during week one of the WTA season, the No. 1, 2 and 4 players are injured in Serena Williams, Simona Halep and Maria Sharapova…World No. 6 Petra Kvitova retired in her first match in Shenzhen with illness…Canadian Milos Ranonic picked up former world No. 1 Carlos Moya on his coaching staff…Bob and Mike Bryan tell Tennis magazine they Facetime every morning when not together…Tomas Berdych has closeted those ugly H&M clothes for adidas.
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