Venus runs out of come­backs at U.S. Open

Winnipeg Free Press - Section D - - SPORTS -

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.

KATHY KMONICEK / THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Venus Wil­liams re­turns a shot to Zheng Jie dur­ing the sec­ond round Wed­nes­day.

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