USA's Venus Williams plays a forehand return against Belgium's Greet Minnen during the US Open tennis tournament women's singles first round match at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in New York City, on August 29, 2023. (Photo by COREY SIPKIN / AFP) (Photo by COREY SIPKIN/AFP via Getty Images) Williams reaches for a forehand return against Greet Minnen at the US Open. Corey Sipkin/AFP/Getty Images CNN  — 

Venus Williams’ record-extending 24th appearance in the US Open singles draw came to an early end on Tuesday as she suffered a heavy first-round defeat against Belgium’s Greet Minnen.

The 43-year-old Williams, handed a wild card entry to the tournament, was beaten 6-1 6-1 by Minnen at Arthur Ashe Stadium. It marked the veteran American’s heaviest defeat at the US Open since she made her debut in 1997, according to Reuters.

“My preparation was definitely minimal,” Williams told reporters after her landmark 100th US Open match. “But I don’t think that it necessarily affected the bulk of my performance.

“I think there are just shots where my footwork wasn’t really there. A lot of backhands I missed where my feet just weren’t there. That’s normal when you don’t spend a lot of time on the court.”

Prior to the tournament, the seven-time grand slam champion had played just nine tour-level matches this year, chalking up three wins in that time.

Against Minnen, she quickly fell to a 0-4 deficit in the first set before getting on the scoreboard with a hold of serve.

American Venus Williams pictured in action during a tennis match between Belgian Minnen and American Williams, in the first round of the Women's Singles at the 2023 US Open Grand Slam tennis tournament in New York City, USA, Tuesday 29 August 2023. BELGA PHOTO TONY BEHAR (Photo by TONY BEHAR / BELGA MAG / Belga via AFP) (Photo by TONY BEHAR/BELGA MAG/AFP via Getty Images) Williams was appearing in the US Open singles draw for the 24th time. Tony Behar/BELGA MAG/AFP/Getty Images

However, the 26-year-old varied her shots well as she attempted to move Williams around the court. After wrapping up the first set, she raced into a 5-0 lead in the second and soon completed the victory as Williams drilled a forehand into the net.

“I really have to give credit to her,” the former world No. 1 said of her opponent’s performance.

“It was just incredible, honestly. I mean, if she can play like that, you imagine that she can be in the top 10 or perhaps No. 1 or maybe win a grand slam – something like that – if she can play at this level.”

Minnen next plays another American, world No. 204 Sachia Vickery, as she bids to reach the third round of a grand slam for only the second time in her career.

Jabeur battles through illness

Elsewhere in the women’s singles draw, last year’s runner-up Ons Jabeur struggled physically in her 7-5 7-6(7-4) win against Camila Osorio.

The Tunisian, who was beaten in the Wimbledon final last month, had difficulties with her breathing during the match, often coughing between points. She was assessed by a doctor towards the end of the first set but managed to dig deep against the Colombian and record her 50th grand slam singles win.

Tunisia's Ons Jabeur pauses while facing Colombia's Camila Osorio during the US Open tennis tournament women's singles first round match at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in New York City, on August 29, 2023. (Photo by TIMOTHY A. CLARY / AFP) (Photo by TIMOTHY A. CLARY/AFP via Getty Images) Jabeur said she was suffering from the flu during her US Open first-round match. Timothy A. Clary/AFP/Getty Images

“It wasn’t an easy match,” Jabeur said during her on-court interview. “She plays unbelievable. I’m not feeling my best today … She asked me if I’m feeling okay and I told her I’m not really.

“She told me I’m such a warrior and I apologized for bringing the doctor on the court. I did not do it on purpose and I know it is tough sometimes to play a player that is injured or not feeling well on the court. But she took it very well.”

Jabeur next faces the Czech Republic’s Linda Nosková in the second round.

On a day of few surprises for the top-ranked players in the women’s draw, there were also straight-set wins for second-seeded Belarusian Aryna Sabalenka and American Jessica Pegula, though France’s seventh-seed Caroline Garcia lost 6-4 6-1 against China’s Wang Yafan.

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