Venus Williams ‘just a little rusty’ as she loses on return, while Jessica Pegula and Simona Halep advance

Venus Williams unimpressed

Venus Williams’ Citi Open debut ended in defeat as tennis great went down in three sets against Rebecca Marino in what was her first singles match in nearly a year.

Having missed the backend of the 2021 season and beginning of 2022 campaign due to injury, former world No 1 Williams made her comeback in the mixed doubles at Wimbledon.

After getting a taste of competitive action, she accepted a wildcard for the WTA 250 in Washington DC, her first singles tournament since Chicago in August last year.

The seven-time Grand Slam winner made a solid start to her debut campaign in Washington DC as she won her opener, but qualifier Marino dominated the next two sets to secure a 4-6, 6-1, 6-4 win in just under two hours.

The American broke in game seven of the first set, but the Canadian dominated the second set with breaks in games four and six. Williams had the early advantage in the decider with a break in game two, but Marino was back on serve in game seven and then claimed a game-deciding break in game nine.

“Just a little rusty,” the 42-year-old veteran said after her match. “I really put myself in good positions in the third set, too. Just trying to shake off some rust. That’s just to be expected. All I can do is just play another tournament and play better.

“I wish I could have pulled this match through for the crowd and for the tournament. But (it) doesn’t always work out.”

Williams – as well as her sister Serena – will next be in action in Montreal as she has also received a wildcard for the WTA 1000 Canadian Open and the Western & Southern Open the following week.

Top seed Jessica Pegula had no problems reaching the second round as she beat fellow American Hailey Baptiste 6-2, 6-2 to set up a second-round encounter with Daria Saville from Australia while third seed Simona Halep opened her campaign with a 6-3, 7-5 win over Spanish qualifier Cristina Bucsa.

Two seeds crashed out as fifth seed Elise Mertens from Belgium went down 7-6 (7-4), 6-4 against Luidmila Samsonova and seventh seed Mayar suffered a 6-4, 6-1 defeat at the hands of Donna Vekic.

Second seed Emma Raducanu will make her singles debut on Tuesday as she will take on Louisa Chirico while fourth seed and former world No 1 Victoria Azarenka will be up against Dayana Yastremska.