RIO DE JANEIRO, Aug. 7 (UPI) — No. 62 was better than No. 6 Saturday as American Venus Williams fell to Belgium’s Kirsten Flipkens.
The sixth-ranked Williams lost the opening singles match in Rio de Janeiro 4-6, 6-3, 7-6, (7-5) in a three-hour heater. Flipkens, ranked No. 62 in the world, now faces Czech Lucie Safarova in second round action.
Williams, 36, won gold in singles in the 2000 Sydney Summer Games. She has three Olympic gold medals in doubles, with sister Serena Williams. The Williams sisters face Safarova and Barbora Strycova Sunday in doubles action.
“I’ve never played the Olympics before so it was already a dream coming true for me to come here,” Flipkens told CNN.
“I qualified for it, I worked a year for this, not to get medal but just to qualify and come here, but then to beat Venus Williams, one of the biggest champions in our history, on center court, gives me goose bumps all over the place.”
Yahoo Sports reported that Williams is still dealing with a virus that she caught last week at the WTA Tournament in Montreal. The website reported that the virus has left Williams “in pretty bad shape physically.”
“Unfortunately, Venus has been sick for a few days, is really ill right now,” U.S. Fed Cup captain Mary Joe Fernandez told Yahoo Sports. “She tried to get through that match – almost got to the finish line. But she’s been dehydrated, with some cramps, upset stomach. You probably could see on the court she’s coughing quite a bit.”
“A bit of bad luck and bad timing that everything came together at this juncture for her. But she fought. She gave it her best out there.”
Still Fernandez told ESPN that Williams should play in the doubles event, despite her illness.
“I’d be highly surprised if Venus didn’t play, just because it’s been her goal for the last four years,” Fernandez told ESPN. “She’s really ill right now. She’s dehydrated. She fought so hard tonight, it’s just too bad she couldn’t find a way to get to the finish line. She’s still processing this, but of course it’s going to be disappointing. She’s been such a terrific champion, to win so many medals. But hopefully she can recover in time and get another one here [with Serena].”
Williams has Sjogren’s syndrome, an autoimmune disease that causes fatigue.