Venus' loss at the US Open just a setback, nothing more

NEW YORK -- Venus Williams either didn't understand the question or didn't like it.

Moments after losing to Sloane Stephens in a three-set semifinal match Thursday at the US Open, Williams was asked about her future.

"What do you mean?" the 37-year-old responded.

When the question was rephrased, Williams simply said, "I don't know. I will continue to play tennis. It's nothing complicated."

It's normal to ask athletes staring at 40 about their future after a difficult defeat. Whether they want to admit it or not, they are in the twilight of their careers when their next loss could easily be their last.

But despite her age, it makes sense for Williams to be taken aback by a question about her future given the season she just put together. Williams reached a pair of major finals in the same year for the first time since 2003 (Australian Open and Wimbledon) and is the only woman who has reached the second week in each of the past seven major tournaments.

Williams had not reached a Grand Slam final since 2009, but has had a renaissance of late; her run actually began at Wimbledon last year when she reached her first major semifinal in six years.

It would have made sense to wonder if Williams would call it a career in late 2011 when she was diagnosed with Sjogren's syndrome -- a disease that causes fatigue along with joint and muscle pain -- and later withdrew from a second-round match at the US Open. She also battled a back injury in 2013.

From 2011 to 2014, Williams appeared in 13 majors and was 16-12 with just one second-week appearance and not a single trip to a final. Since 2015, however, Williams has been in 12 majors and is 42-12 with 10 second-week appearances and two finals appearances.

Sure she's 37, but this is the best Williams has played in nearly a decade.

Williams nearly reached her third major final this season, which she hadn't done since 2002, but ultimately fell to the 24-year-old Stephens, in a back-and-forth match that had the capacity crowd at Arthur Ashe Stadium on its feet several times.

At this year's Wimbledon, Williams became the only woman other than Martina Navratilova in 1994 to reach a major final at 37 or older. If that's not enough, here are a few more achievements from this season:

  • One of only three women, along with Navratilova and Billie Jean King, to rank in the top 10 at 37.

  • Defeated top-ranked Angelique Kerber in Miami, making her the oldest player in WTA history to defeat a No. 1.

  • Became the third-oldest player in WTA history to rank in the top 10, behind King and Navratilova.

It was hard for Williams to put all that she has accomplished this season in perspective. She has been playing long enough not to be impressed by anything less than trophies.

"Well, to be honest, I'm definitely here to win my matches, not for consolations," Williams said. "For me, it's about putting myself in the position all the time to get the titles, and that's exactly what I did. That's all I could do. So that's the point of being here, is to put yourself in position to win."

Williams has certainly done that during her 20-year career. She has won seven major championships and trails only her sister, Serena, among active players in Slam wins, titles and prize money.

But don't even mention Venus in the retirement rhetoric right now. In fact, if this season has been any indication, she has plenty of more trophies awaiting her down the road.