Serena and Venus Williams traded fist bumps or palm slaps and chatted between points. They smiled while conversing in their seats at changeovers.
When their first doubles match together in 4 1/2 years ended with a loss at the U.S Open on Thursday night, the siblings hugged each other, then left the court to a standing ovation.
The Williams sisters were eliminated by the Czech pair of Lucie Hradecka and Linda Noskova 7-6 (5), 6-4 at Flushing Meadows.
“I was speechless when I found out I’m going to face these two. I mean, they’re legends. And I was always such a big fan of them, especially Serena. She has been my idol since ever, probably,” said Noskova, a 17-year-old making her Grand Slam debut in doubles. “So I was really happy, excited, but kind of scared, to face them.”
Arthur Ashe Stadium had never hosted a first-round doubles match — for women or men, during the night or day — until this one featuring two members of one family who have combined to claim 14 Grand Slam titles in doubles.
“It’s something incredible, because playing first round in a huge stadium, with 23,000 people, is something amazing,” said the 37-year-old Hradecka, who won major doubles trophies with Andrea Hlavackova at the 2013 U.S. Open and 2011 French Open. “I don’t think (when) we played the final here, it was packed like this.”
The Williams sisters, who did not do interviews after the match, were partnering up for the first time since the 2018 French Open. This was their fourth first-round doubles defeat at a Slam; the most recent had been at the 2013 French Open.
“I’m still in shock that we won,” Hradecka said in an on-court interview right after the match’s conclusion.
Speaking to the sellout crowd of 23,859, she said: “I’m so sorry for you that we beat them, but we are so happy that we did it.”
The fans were not nearly as boisterous as they were for each of the two victories in singles this week for Serena, who has hinted that this will be the final event of her career.
Serena plays Ajla Tomljanovic on Friday night in the third round of singles; Venus was bounced from that bracket in the first round.
After a rather subdued entrance from the locker room by Hradecka and Noskova, who were competing as a team for the first time, a video tribute to the Williams-Williams pairing played on the Ashe videoboards, with a narrator introducing “two of the greatest athletes on Planet Earth” and, in a reference to Serena’s looming retirement, saying, “It’s not too late to change your mind.”