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Indian Wells: Venus Williams Suffers Defeat in First Match Post US Open, Naomi Osaka Moves Forward

Indian Wells: Venus Williams Suffers Defeat in First Match Post US Open, Naomi Osaka Moves Forward
Indian Wells: Venus Williams Suffers Defeat in First Match Post US Open, Naomi Osaka Moves Forward (AP Photo/Ryan Sun)
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After a six-month hiatus from the tennis court, Venus Williams, the 43-year-old tennis legend and owner of seven Grand Slam titles, made her return on Thursday. However, the comeback was not as triumphant as fans might have hoped. Williams faced a tough defeat against qualifier Nao Hibino at the BNP Paribas Open, losing the last 10 games in a 2-6, 6-3, 6-0 match.

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Williams had been absent from the competitive scene since her first-round exit at the U.S. Open on August 29. That match, a 6-1, 6-1 defeat against Greet Minnen, was one of the most lopsided losses in Williams’ illustrious career, spanning over 100 matches at the major tournament she won in 2000 and 2001.

The end of Thursday’s match saw Williams, once the world’s No. 1 and now ranked outside the top 450, graciously walk to the net to congratulate Hibino. Despite the loss, she left the court with a smile and a wave, earning applause from the crowd.

Williams, who clinched her most recent Grand Slam title at Wimbledon in 2008, has played sparingly in recent years, partly due to injuries. Her last appearance at Indian Wells was in 2019. Despite her ranking, Williams can still deliver powerful serves and big backhands, but this match was marred by errors, including 10 double faults.

The match had its share of drama, with heavy rain interrupting play after just two games on Wednesday night. When play resumed about 14 hours later, the weather had cleared up, and the temperature had risen above 70 degrees Fahrenheit (20 Celsius). Williams, who had been wearing a long-sleeved white top and black leggings the night before, appeared on the court in her usual attire.

Hibino, currently ranked 80th and with a previous 0-3 record at Indian Wells, will now advance to the second round to face No. 17 seed Veronika Kudermetova.

Day 2 at the desert saw a packed schedule due to the previous night’s weather delay. Other winners of the day included three-time Grand Slam title winner Naomi Osaka, 2021 U.S. Open champion Emma Raducanu, 2018 Australian Open winner Caroline Wozniacki, and 2022 Australian Open runner-up Danielle Collins. Collins’ next challenge is a matchup with No. 1 Iga Swiatek, who narrowly defeated her in three sets at the Australian Open in January. Osaka’s 6-3, 6-1 victory over qualifier Sara Errani has set her up for a match against No. 14 Liudmila Samsononva.

On the men’s side, three-time major champ Stan Wawrinka was edged 7-6 (3), 4-6, 6-2 by 63rd-ranked Tomas Machac. Other winners included Gael Monfils, qualifier Lucas Pouille, Borna Coric, and 19-year-old American Alex Michelsen. Rafael Nadal, who was scheduled to play his first tour match since January on Thursday night, withdrew from the tournament on Wednesday.

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