Former World No. 1 Venus Williams, 36 years old, fought a tough first round battle against Belgium’s Kirsten Flipkens. After three tight sets, the American fell hard, 6-4, 3-6, 7-6.
On the whole, the Americans were a mixed bag. The men’s side – not considered as strong as the country’s women players – saw some significant losses. World No. 25/14th-seeded Jack Sock of Kansas, arguably the U.S.’ best medal hope in men’s singles, fell flat in the first round. He lost in straight sets to Japan’s World No. 125/unseeded Taro Daniel of Japan.
Meanwhile, unseeded Brian Baker – who made it onto the U.S.’ Olympic team due to a “protected ranking” – lost in a tight three sets to Japan’s Yuichi Sugita.
American No. 12 seed Steve Johnson handily defeated unseeded Barbados’ Darian King.
Rising U.S. star Madison Keys faced a tough opponent in Montenegro’s Danka Kovinic, but ultimately defeated her in straight sets, 6-3, 6-3. Keys advanced to the top ten world rankings for the first time earlier this year.
But Sloane Stephens – another U.S. up-and-comer – lost by the same score to Canadian Eugenie Bouchard, who’s experiencing something of a comeback following injury.
Radwanska took to court 1 in the early afternoon and was ousted from the tournament approximately an hour later. The World No. 5 fell to the China’s World No. 64 Zheng Saisai in straight sets, 6-4, 7-5.
It reportedly took Radwanska 55 hours of travel to make it to Rio, following a repeatedly delayed flight out of Canada. She finally arrived in Rio on Wednesday evening and apparently developed an illness shortly thereafter.
Furious at her circumstances, the generally mild-mannered Radwanska smashed her racket after the uncharacteristic premature loss.
Other big name losses: Italy’s Roberta Vinci (seeded sixth), who famously denied Serena Williams the calendar Grand Slam at last year’s US Open, and Switzerland’s Timea Bacsinszky (seeded twelfth).
Tomorrow’s schedule is chock-full of tennis superstars, including (on the men’s side) World No. 1 Novak Djokovic (SRB), World No. 2 Andy Murray (GBR) and World No. 3 Rafael Nadal (ESP). On the women’s side, World No. 1 Serena Williams (USA), World No. 2 Angelique Kerber (GER) and World No. 3 Garbine Muguruza (ESP) will play their first-round matches.
And Venus fans, don’t fret – she’ll be back on court tomorrow alongside sister Serena, defending her doubles gold medal.