After her latest early Grand Slam exit, Venus Williams was asked what the future holds for her at the U.S. Open.
In one breath, Williams brushed aside the unspoken reference to retirement, saying, ''I definitely want to come back for the atmosphere.''
And in the next, she added, ''I mean, next year's Open is so far away right now.''
At 33, slowed the past couple of years by an autoimmune disease that saps energy, and hampered much of this season by a bad back, Williams knows by now that such queries are going to arrive, particularly after results such as her 6-3, 2-6, 7-6 (5) loss to 56th-ranked Zheng Jie of China on a wet Wednesday at Flushing Meadows. It is the third year in a row that the two-time champion is out of the U.S. Open after two rounds.
''If I didn't think I had anything in the tank, I wouldn't be here,'' said Williams, who was ranked No. 1 in 2002 and is currently 60th. ''I feel like I do, and that's why I'm here.''
The American acquitted herself well for stretch...