NEW YORK • Venus Williams rejected the suggestion she might be content to serve as an inspiration to younger players after her 6-1, 0-6, 7-5 defeat by fellow American Sloane Stephens in the US Open semi-finals on Thursday.
The 37-year-old, celebrating her 20th anniversary at the US Open, was not amused when asked at her media conference if there was any consolation the younger generation of American players have cited her as an inspiration.
Three compatriots made the semi-finals, including Madison Keys, 22, and CoCo Vandeweghe, 25. Keys, 24, saw Williams defeat Lindsay Davenport in an all-American Wimbledon final in 2005 - which she watched on television as a 12-year-old.
"To be honest, I'm definitely here to win my matches, not for consolations," Williams said. "I will continue to play tennis."
"It's nothing complicated," added the seven-time Grand Slam singles champion.
Things got complicated for her at Arthur Ashe Stadium, however, where Williams had 28 winners to Stephens' 17 but made 51 unforced errors to her rival's 27.
Former world No. 1 Mats Wilander, at Flushing Meadows as an analyst for Eurosport, said: "The match-up is bad for (Williams) because Stephens gets everything back in play, she's so fast and shots that usually are winners for her, she has to hit again and hit again and it's not really Venus' strength.
"She likes to hit a couple or three shots and then the rally is over."
When Williams stood two points from victory returning at 30-all while leading 5-4 in the third, she was forced into uncomfortable positions.
A 25-shot rally that seemed to defy geometry ended with Stephens sending a backhand up the line for a clean winner.
After Stephens claimed that game, the first two points of Williams' service game at 5-5 were 12-shot exchanges.
Stephens won them both and wound up getting 10 of the final 11 points, the last one on Williams' exhausted-looking service return.
While Stephens' speed was a factor in the 2hr 7min battle, Wilander believes Williams choked.
"Venus looked a little bit nervous, she looked a little bit nervous in the Wimbledon final too, which is understandable at 37 years old because you're not going to have many more chances," said the Swede.
REUTERS, WASHINGTON POST