Venus Williams's comeback was ruined by her loss at Indian Wells
Venus Williams’s comeback was ruined by her loss at Indian Wells

INDIAN WELLS, California — Venus Williams played a match on tour for the first time in about six months on Thursday. The 43-year-old winner of seven Grand Slam titles lost to amateur Nao Hibino 2-6, 6-3, 6-0 at the BNP Paribas Open, giving up the lead and the last 10 games.

Williams hadn’t played much since August 29, when she lost in the first round of the US Open. Greet Minnen beat the American 6-1, 6-1. It was her worst loss in 100 career matches at the major event she won in 2000 and 2001.

Williams lost on Thursday when she was broken for the seventh time in 12 service games. She went to the net to thank Hibino and then smiled and waved as she left the court. Many people in the small crowd stood to cheer her on.

Williams used to be ranked No. 1 but is now outside the top 450. Her last Grand Slam title was at Wimbledon in 2008, and she hasn’t played much lately, in part because she’s been hurt. The last time she played at Indian Wells was in 2019.

She can still hit hard serves and big backhands, but she made a lot of mistakes this time, including 10 double-faults.

Heavy rain stopped the game after they had played just two games on Wednesday night, when it was windy and cold. About 14 hours after the ban, play started again. It was sunny, over 70 degrees, and Williams didn’t need to wear the long-sleeved white shirt and black leggings she wore the night before.

As of this match, Hibino was ranked 80th and had never won a match at Indian Wells. In the second round, she will play Veronika Kudermetova, who is placed 17th.

Because of the weather the night before, Day 2 in the desert was very busy. Winners on that day included Emma Raducanu, who won the US Open in 2021, Caroline Wozniacki, who won the Australian Open in 2018, and Danielle Collins, who came in second place at the Australian Open in 2022. Collins’ next match is against No. 1 Iga Swiatek. At the Australian Open in January, Swiatek beat Collins in three sets.

One of the guys, Gael Monfils, beat three-time major winner Stan Wawrinka 7-6 (3), 4-6, 6-2. Gael Monfils and qualifier Lucas Pouille also won.

Thursday night was meant to be Rafael Nadal’s first tour match since January, but he pulled out of the tournament on Wednesday.

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