slotlady-Serena in doubles loss at US Open as Azarenka wins political grudge match

USA's Serena Williams (L) and Venus Williams play against Czech Republic's Lucie Hradecka and Linda Noskova during their 2022 US Open Tennis tournament women's doubles first round match at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in New York, on September 1, 2022. (Photo by COREY SIPKIN / AFP)USA's Serena Williams (L) and Venus Williams play against Czech Republic's Lucie Hradecka and Linda Noskova during their 2022 US Open Tennis tournament women's doubles first round match at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in New York, on September 1, 2022. (Photo by COREY SIPKIN / AFP)

SERENA Williams closed one chapter on her epic Grand Slam story at the US Open on Thursday while Victoria Azarenka triumphed in a politically-charged grudge match.

For the first time since 2018, Serena and sister Venus revived the partnership which has brought them 14 doubles titles at the majors.

However, their hopes of collecting a third crown in New York were dashed in a 7-6 (7/5), 6-4 defeat to Czech pairing Linda Noskova and Lucie Hradecka.

The loss leaves 40-year-old Serena free to focus on what is widely expected to be the final singles campaign of her landmark 27-year career before retirement.

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On Friday, the 23-time Slam singles winner will face Australia's Ajla Tomljanovic for a place in the fourth round.

Meanwhile, Azarenka triumphed against Marta Kostyuk 6-2, 6-3 in a match dominated by bitter exchanges over the conflict in Ukraine.

Last week, Belarusian star Azarenka was axed from an exhibition event aimed at raising money for the war-ravaged country.

Ukraine's Kostyuk had refused to take part in protest at the presence of Azarenka who she has criticised for a perceived failure to condemn the invasion of her home country.

Belarus is a close ally of Russia and has allowed Moscow to use its territory to launch attacks into Ukraine.

The tension between the two was evident at the end of their tie on Court 17 with Kostyuk offering just a touch of racquets instead of the customary post-match handshake.

"How did it make me feel? It's not the most important thing in the world right now," said Azarenka.

Kostyuk, the 20-year-old world number 65, said a handshake would not have been appropriate.

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