The action at Wimbledon kicked off today, and Serena Williams was looking to get things started right with a solid first round. The #25 seed beat Arantxa Rus of the Netherlands 7-5, 6-3 in a tough fight.
Williams, looking for her 8th Wimbledon championship, was the clear favorite. Rus was trying to capitalize on the fact that Williams has not been very active on the competitive scene in the last few months. And Rus has a lot to prove to her fans, after struggling to regain any significant traction in women’s tennis since 2012.
Here’s what you need to know.
1. Rus Got Her Start as a Junior Level Champion
The 27-year-old Rus, born and raised in the Netherlands, began playing in professional tournaments at age 14. In her 2005 debut, she lost in the second round of the ITF Pro tournament at Alkmaar.
She got her first taste of success in 2008. She surprised the field at the Australian Open; Rus was seeded #14 but clinched the championship by sweeping Jessica Moore in straight sets. Rus became ranked #1 in the world at the junior level during this period.
Also in the junior level, Rus made it to the semi-finals at the French Open, losing to the eventual champion Simona Halep. Rus next set her sights on a junior title at Wimbledon, but fell short with a loss in the quarterfinals.
2. Rus is Tied For Longest Losing Streak in Tour History
Rus shares a title that no professional athlete wants: the longest losing streak in her sport. In 2013, Rus just couldn’t seem to win no matter how hard she tried. She lost 17 matches in a row, and dropped to a #156 ranking.
The only other woman to lose that many consecutive tour-level matches is American player Sandy Collins. That losing streak stretched between 1984 and 1987.
Rus does have something going for her, though: she never gives up. In an interview published by the Associated Press in 2013, Rus had this to say about her losing streak: “I lost a lot of matches. Yeah, it’s hard, but I try to keep working hard. That’s the only thing you can do.”
The longest losing streak on the men’s side belongs to Vince Spadea. According to the ATP, the American lost 21 consecutive matches from 1999 to 2000.
3. Rus’s Only Championship as an Adult Has Been in Doubles
Rus’s secured her first WTA title on clay at the Swedish Open in July 2017, playing alongside fellow Dutch player Quirine Lemoine. They defeated Maria Irigoyen of Argentina and Barbora Krejcikova of the Czech Republic in an epic final match-up.
Rus and Lemoine lost the first set 3-6, before turning it around in the second set. The third set become a long-lasting battle, with Rus and Lemoine eventually coming out on top 10-8.
The teammates spoke on-camera after winning the Swedish Open. They both acknowledged that the win gave them confidence going forward in future singles tournaments. Rus also stressed the importance of having fun on the court.
4. Rus Has a History of Surprise Upset Wins, But Has Never Capitalized on That Momentum
Rus has yet to make it past the third round of Wimbledon. But in 2012, she surprised the 5th-seeded Australian Samantha Stosur, who was previously ranked as high as 4th in the world, in the second round. That match showed Rus’ ability to rebound after a crushing set: she won 6-2, 0-6, 6-4. Rus went on to lose 6-1, 6-2 in the third round to Chinese player Peng Shuai.
Also in 2012, Rus made history for her country by becoming the first Dutchwoman in 19 years to reach the fourth round at the French Open. Her second round victory was over Virginie Razzano of France. Razzano, who was ranked #111 at the time, had just stunned the tennis world by defeating Serena Williams in the first round. But Rus squashed that momentum by beating Razzano in straight sets. Rus won the third round over Julia Gorges before eventually falling to Kaia Kanepi.
5. Rus Is Ranked #105 in the World
According to the WTA, Rus’ current singles ranking is #105. Her highest ranking was during 2011 and 2012, when she cracked the top 100 by reaching #61.
The left-handed player is coming off a recent first-round loss at the French Open. She dropped in straight sets to American Sloane Stephens in just 49 minutes of play.
In Monday’s match against Williams, Rus made it a battle. The first set went long, with Williams eventually taking it 7-5. And in the second set, Rus forced six match points before finally losing 6-3. After the match, Williams praised Rus for her performance. ““I’m happy to get through that. She played unbelievable today. That’s the game. You have to be ready for everything. I didn’t play my best but I’ll get there. I’ll take it one match at a time.”