NEW YORK — After her latest early Grand Slam exit, Venus Williams was asked what the future holds for her at the U.S. Open.
In one breath, Williams brushed aside the unspoken reference to retirement, saying, “I definitely want to come back for the atmosphere.”
And in the next, she added, “I mean, 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, particularly after results such as her 6-3, 2-6, 7-6 (7-5) loss to 56th-ranked Zheng Jie of China on a wet Wednesday at Flushing Meadows. It is the third year in a row that the two-time champion is out of the U.S. Open after two rounds.
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“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.”
Rain began falling in the early afternoon, jumbling the schedule, and eight women’s singles matches were postponed entirely, including Williams’ younger sister, Serena, against Galina Voskoboeva.
James Blake’s career ended in a fifth-set tiebreaker after he won the first two sets. The 33-year-old American lost 6-7 (2-7), 3-6, 6-4, 7-6 (7-2), 7-6 (7-2) in the first round to Ivo Karlovic of Croatia. Blake announced Monday this would be his last tournament.
Defending champion Andy Murray of Britain played his first match, a 6-2, 6-4, 6-3 victory over Michael Llodra of France.
Other men’s winners included 2009 champion Juan Martin del Potro of Argentina and 2001 title winner Lleyton Hewitt of Australia.
Women’s winners included 2011 French Open champion Li Na of China, 2012 Wimbledon runner-up Agnieszka Radwanska of Poland, No. 15 Sloane Stephens of the United States and 30th-seeded Laura Robson of Britain.