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Venus Williams exits US Open to seeded Elina Svitolina

US OPEN EXIT: Venus Williams (file photo)

TWO-TIME US Open champion Venus Williams set the Louis Armstrong Stadium alight but exited New York's Flushing Meadows at the hands of Ukrainian no.5 seed Elina Svitolina on Wednesday (August 28).

The legendary American, surprisingly stunned at Wimbledon by 15-year-old compatriot Cori "Coco" Gauff, fought off six match points before bravely bowing out of the US Open 6-4 6-4.

Having narrowly dropped the opening set, Williams hit a purple patch to surge into a 3-0 lead. But the 39-year-old appeared to have had the wind taken out of her sails from saving four break points to earn the three-game cushion.

Svitolina moved through the gears to turn on the style, much to the disappointment of Williams' raucous fans under the stadium's roof because of nearby rain, to reel off five games on the bounce and be within a whisker of victory.

Williams - who fired off a string of winners, an array of volleys and her trademark thumping serves - was then given her most testing time of the contest. The pair played out a thrilling cat-and-mouse 22-point game, which Williams edged by somehow staving off five match points that resulted in the arena erupting with delight.

With Svitolina serving for the match, the 2000 and 2001 US Open winner made a mistake and placed the ball long on the sixth match point to allow the 24-year-old through to the 3rd round of this season's final Grand Slam.

It was Svitolina's second major success over Williams this season, having won their opening round encounter at the French Open. And the Ukraine improved after the Paris clay by storming into her first Grand Slam semi-final by racing through the field at Wimbledon's All England Club.

The fact that the world no.66 gave Svitolina a scare shows that Williams is not quite ready to hang up her racquet.

Williams had been even more formidable and ruthless in dropping just one game in her opening round triumph over China's Zheng Saisai, thumping down a 115mph ace on match point on Monday (August 26).

The American icon needed just 66 minutes to make it a clean sweep of opening round victories at the major in New York for the 21st time, which equalled compatriot's Martina Navratilova's remarkable record at Flushing Meadows.

Having been surprisingly voted off the WTA Tour's eight-player council on the eve of the US Open appeare to have given Williams some extra fire in her belly for her two matches in New York.

Williams and Belarusian Victoria Azarenka were both removed from their WTA Tour council duties, having failing to command the votes required to continue in their roles. US duo Madison Keys and Sloane Stephens were elected in their places respectively.

And Williams' career on the circuit is most definitely winding down, although she is ever hopeful of winning one more tournament to reach an historic half century of Singles titles, having last been crowned champion on the WTA Tour three years ago. If she can produce performances like she did against Zheng and Svitolina then it is only a matter of time before she achieves her 50th title.

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