Venus Williams supplied the drama in the final night match at the US Open on Thursday, playing some of her worst tennis of the year, including bouncing a second serve into the net, in falling to No. 6 seed Angelique Kerber of Germany 6-2, 5-7, 7-5 in a match that ended after midnight in Flushing Meadows.
The elder Williams sister went from absolutely awful in the opening set, hitting sitter overheads wide of the doubles alley, to rallying in the second set, and making for a tight third set.
Williams appeared in control in the third, up a break 4-2 when Kerber broke back for 4-3 on serve. Kerber held for 4-4, then Venus for 5-4. Kerber held through a tough game for 5-5, then pressure Venus in the next game to get the break and the 6-5 lead before serving out the match.
“It’s unbelievable, Venus is such a grat player and she’s won so many Grand Slams,” Kerber said.
Kerber in her next match will face unseeded Olga Govortsova of Belarus.
In other Top 10 action, all three other Top 10 seeds in play on Thursday advanced, with No. 2 Aggie Radwanska waiting out Spain’s Carla Suarez Navarro 6-0 in the third, No. 4 Serena Williams having a relatively easy time with Spaniard Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez 6-2, 6-4, and No. 10 Sara Errani rolling over Russian Vera Dushevina 6-0, 6-1.
“She’s a very tough opponent,” said Radwanska of the sweet-backhanded Navarro, who stretched her to three sets. “A lot of spins, some slice, I think a lot of different shots. I think I just make a bit too many mistake in the beginning. Then for sure I just start to play much better and make her run.”
Radwanska will next face No. 30 Jelena Jankovic, who on Thursday topped Spanish qualifier Lara Arruabarrena-Vecino in straights. Errani next meets Russian qualifier Olga Puchkova, and Serena Williams faces unseeded Russian Ekaterina Makarova.
Serena won in straights, but in the second set was a point from going down two breaks.
“I wasn’t really happy with the way I was playing,” Serena said. “I just wasn’t happy out there today in general. I think I woke up on the wrong side of the bed. It was just one of those days, but I’m happy I made it through.”
Other seeded winners on the day were No. 12 Ana Ivanovic, No. 13 Dominika Cibulkova, No. 14 Maria Kirilenko, and No. 20 Roberta Vinci.
Also among unseeded winners, American Sloane Stephens, building on her previous win over former French Open champion Francesca Schiavone, rallied from a set down to overcome the slicing and dicing of German qualifier Tatjana Malek 5-7, 6-4, 6-2.
Ivanovic will next face the upstart Stephens.
“Well, I played her last year here, actually,” Ivanovic said of Stephens. “I do know a little bit. She’s improved a lot since then. I watched a little bit of the previous match…She’s very bubbly, that’s for sure. She’s very happy and upbeat. I do see myself a little bit. But I think over the years I calmed a little bit.”
Singles highlights on Friday in Flushing Meadows are defending champ (7) Sam Stosur vs. American (31) Varvara Lepchenko, (3) Maria Sharapova vs. American collegian Mallory Burdette, (1) Victoria Azarenka vs. (28) Jie Zheng, (9) Na Li vs. the Clijsters-killer Laura Robson of Britain, and veterans (19) Nadia Petrova vs. (15) Lucie Safarova.
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