Venus Williams’ hopes of winning another Olympic gold medal now rest in the women’s doubles after the veteran tennis star lost her opening singles match at the Rio Games on Saturday.
The American has had a resurgence this year, reaching the semis at Wimbledon and a WTA Tour final in Stanford, but lost in three sets to 62nd-ranked Kirsten Flipkens.
The Belgian won 4-6 6-3 7-6 (7-5) in a three-hour thriller to set up a second-round clash with Czech Lucie Safarova, who also came from behind to beat Italy’s Karin Knapp 4-6 6-1 6-1.
“I’ve never played the Olympics before so it was already a dream coming true for me to come here,” Flipkens said.
“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.”
The 36-year-old Williams won singles gold at Sydney 2000, but her three other Olympic titles are in the doubles with younger sister Serena. They will defend their crown from London 2012 in Brazil, starting with Sunday’s match against Safarova and Barbora Strycova.
World No. 1 Serena begins her singles title defense Sunday against Australia’s Daria Gavrilova, while men’s champion Andy Murray starts his campaign against Serbia’s Viktor Troicki.