Venus Williams fought hard but it was not enough in the end as the 2-time US Open champion was ushered out in the second round of her home event by Jie Zheng in a 3-set thriller 6-3, 2-6, 7-6(5).
“I definitely wish that I was playing the third round, but it’s not to be for me this year,” Venus said. “She just went for every shot. Unfortunately, I just didn’t play consistently enough today.
“I tried. Really, she played well.”
Zheng served for the match in the third but was unable to deliver the knockout blow until an edgy final set breaker, handing the 33-year-old Venus her third straight second round loss at the US Open and some question if she’ll ever grace the New York courts again.
“Maybe this fall I’m going to enter consecutive tournaments, so even if I do have a bad match I can hopefully play sooner so I can just get some rhythm. But I think there’s a lot of positives for me out of this tournament. I continue to serve better and recover my back injury with each tournament.”
On a day of rain delays and interruptions, the Venus match went 3 hours, 2 minutes – the longest of the women’s event. But that match was outdone by Juan Martin del Potro who needed 4 hours, 13 minutes – the longest match on the men’s side – to turn away a pesky Guillermo Garcia-Lopez in four sets 6-3, 6-7, 6-4, 7-6.
Because of the rain, the match was started at 1pm but didn’t finish until nearly 9:30pm local time as the two battled toe-to-toe on the famed Arthur Ashe court.
The Argentine will now face another former US Open champ, his idol Lleyton Hewitt, in the next round.
“I just finished after four hours and a half,” said Del Potro. “Then I will have Lleyton Hewitt. It’s maybe the tougher opponent without seeding. It’s going to be really difficult for me.”
Behind because of rain, the tournament needed quick matches but the men weren’t cooperating. With eight women’s second round matches cancelled, there were several long affairs.
Marcel Granollers and Somdev Devvarman both went five sets as did Alex Bogomolov who won it in a final set tiebreaker.
Elsewhere, Fabio Fognini packed it in winning just five games against American Rajeev Ram. Winston-Salem champ Jurgen Melzer had nothing left in a straight set loss to Evgeny Donskoy and Andy Murray returned to the court on which he won his first career Major with an easy 6-2. 6-4, 6-3 victory over French lefty Michael Llodra.
“I mean, it was a good match,” Murray said. “The rallies were, you know, quick, sharp. Wasn’t much time between points. He was playing quickly on his serves in between points. It was a fairly, I thought, high standard match. Lots of reactions and dropshots, and definitely tested my movement today. I thought I moved well. I didn’t make too many errors. It was a solid match.”
The Scot, though, wasn’t pleased with a 10pm start to the match.
“I don’t know how many guys have played their first match at 9:00 on a Wednesday,” questioned Murray. “I don’t know how often that’s happened, so I wouldn’t know what the stats or the odds on that are.”
In late matches, Sloane Stephens crushed Urszula Radwanska 6-1, 6-1. She’ll move onto to a showdown Friday against her countrywoman Jamie Hampton.
And in what turned out to be the final match of his career, James Blake was a hard-luck loser falling to Ivo Karlovic 6-7, 3-6, 6-4, 7-6, 7-6(2).
“Every bit of hard work it took to play in front of you all was worth it,” Blake said on court. “I am lucky enough to be able to still think of this as a happy moment.”
On a very busy Thursday, Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal return to action on Arthur Ashe. John Isner battles Gael Monfils and also on court are David Ferrer, Milos Raonic and Sam Querrey.
The women are set to finish their second round. Serena Williams, Victoria Azarenka and former No. 1s Ana Ivanovic and Caroline Wozniacki are scheduled. American 17-year-old Victoria Duval will also return.
THURSDAY US OPEN SCHEDULE
Arthur Ashe Stadium 11:00 am Start Time
Flavia Pennetta (ITA) vs. Sara Errani (ITA)
Not Before: 1.00pm
Serena Williams (USA) vs. Galina Voskoboeva (KAZ)
Roger Federer (SUI) vs. Carlos Berlocq (ARG)
Arthur Ashe Stadium 7:00 pm Start Time
Caroline Wozniacki (DEN) vs. Chanelle Scheepers (RSA)
Rogerio Dutra Silva (BRA) vs. Rafael Nadal (ESP)
Louis Armstrong Stadium 11:00 am Start Time
Eugenie Bouchard (CAN) vs. Angelique Kerber (GER)
Roberto Bautista Agut (ESP) vs. David Ferrer (ESP)
Aleksandra Wozniak (CAN) vs. Victoria Azarenka (BLR)
Silvia Soler-Espinosa (ESP) vs. Serena Williams (USA)
Carla Suarez Navarro (ESP) Venus Williams (USA)
Not Before: 5.30pm
John Isner (USA) vs. Gael Monfils (FRA)
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Jankovic Survives, Williams Sisters Friday at French Open
Serena, Venus Williams Battle Today at Miami, No. 1 Rank in Balance
Venus Williams Survives Tough Opener, Serena On Deck at French Open
Juan Martin Del Potro Has Won 12 Straight Matches In Washington, Plays Haas Tonight