*Another tournament, another heartbreak for 7-time Grand Slam champion, Venus Williams, 34. She fell at the US Open to doubles expert and clay courter, Sara Errani of Italy, in a three-set thriller that had the crowd inside Arthur Ashe Stadium on the edge of their seats.
Venus and Serena played a grueling doubles match on Thursday – the night before, pulling it out in three hard fought sets, but while Serena can bounce back from such, Venus has more dire considerations. Dealing with the fatigue inducing Sjogren’s disease, she never knows when she’ll be zapped of all her energy, which could’ve been the case this Friday afternoon.
When she started the match against 13-seeded Errani, she was as flat as a pancake. Balls were flying by her and her movement between points was at a snail’s pace. Sporadic call outs were coming from the crowd for her to “wake up!” but there seemed little she could do to pump herself up. The feisty Italian, was well aware of the situation and took full advantage. She bounced around the court as fast as the balls were flying and romped Williams 6-0 in the first.
But Venus dug deep and answered the call.
The 19th seeded Williams held her serve in the first game – which she hadn’t been able to do before that point – and raced to the end of the set with steadily increasing energy. She somehow found a way to turn the tables and likewise romp Errani with the same score of 6-0. And being the hometown favorite with a compelling back story, the electrified crowd on Ashe were totally behind the 2-time champion.
Set three was an all out thriller.
Venus was in full swing, finding lines and hitting winners and Errani was in full fight mode, being the lesser of the two in power and dictating points. The two traded styles, making for a set full of exciting contrasts.
There was much back and forth with breaks of serves in the last set, but the trade-offs ended in a tense tiebreak duel. Tiebreaks arguably favor the biggest server, which would’ve been Venus, but Errani used her astounding doubles prowess to throw Venus off her game. She broke Venus for the first point, but Venus was able to recover it by breaking her back. One thing led to another and it came down to Errani holding a 6-5 lead in the end, on Venus’s serve. Venus was in control of the final exchange, but the Italian surprised her by ending the intense rally with a down the line shot that ended the match.
The crowd was deflated, Venus suffered her fourth heartbreak (all three-setters) within a relatively short period and Errani was elated to have beaten a Williams sister for the first time in her career. The loss was very untimely, because while Venus was on court, her most formidable opponents left in her side of the draw, Angelique Kerber and Simona Halep were both on their way out of the tournament as well.
Venus Williams is still alive in doubles with her sister, but one more victory at Flushing would’ve been a story for the ages, given her circumstances. Maybe next year.