Venus runs out of comebacks at U.S. Open
No. 17 Kevin Anderson, No. 21 Mikhail Youzhny and 109th-ranked American wild-card entry Tim Smyczek were among the men’s winners.
Venus Williams and Zheng, a former top-15 player who twice reached Grand Slam semifinals, played all of two points at the beginning before their match was interrupted by showers.
When they resumed about two hours later, at 15-all in the opening game, Williams’ play was full of mistakes. In the first set, she only managed to put 46 per cent of her first serves in play, and she accumulated 15 unforced errors, 10 more than Zheng. The American, who owns seven Grand Slam singles titles in all, failed to convert any of six break points, while losing serve twice.
And then came the second set, and a significant shift. Suddenly, Williams looked a lot more like the player who won the U.S. Open in 2000 and 2001.
After falling behind by a break in the third set, and being two points away from losing — at 5-3, when Zheng served for the victory, then again in the next game — Williams put up quite a fight to extend the match, drawing raucous support from clapping, yelling and standing fans at Louis Armstrong Stadium. With a drizzle coming down, and play halted on other courts, Williams and Zheng stayed out there and kept going.
Zheng grabbed a 4-1 lead in the tiebreaker, before Williams made one last stand. It was 4-all after Zheng dumped a forehand into the net on a 23-stroke exchange, then leaned over at the baseline, resting on her racket as if it were a cane.
Then, at 5-all, Williams put a backhand volley into the net as she lost her footing and sat on the court, wincing. That gave Zheng her first match point, and Williams’ backhand service return was off the mark, ending her stay in the singles draw.
Williams was ranked No. 1 in 2002, but she last was a member of the top 10 when she was No. 9 in March 2011, and she’s currently 60th. The last time she made it beyond the third round at a Grand Slam tournament was a fourthround appearance at Wimbledon that season.
At the 2011 U.S. Open, Williams withdrew before her second-round match, announcing she had been diagnosed with an autoimmune disease that saps energy. She lost in the second round in New York last year.
And her results have faded more, with losses in the first round at two her previous four trips to major tournaments, including at the French Open in May. Bothered much of this season by a bad lower back, Williams sat out Wimbledon for the only time in her career in June.
Venus Williams returns a shot to Zheng Jie during the second round Wednesday.