NEW YORK – Playing in her second match in less than 24 hours, Venus Williams looked tired as she took the court on Friday against Sara Errani. The two-time U.S. Open champion had only finished her first-round double's match with sister Serena Williams around 8 p.m. ET on Wednesday night.
The first set was a disaster for Williams; tough to watch at times as she gave up three double faults and committed 18 unforced errors. Errani, the higher seed at 13 compared to Williams's 19, took the first set 6-0.
It was the first time Williams has bageled a set on hard courts since the 2009 U.S. Open. That time, she was playing Kim Clijsters. That time, she took the second set 6-0.
Today, she did the same. She looked like her powerful self again, hitting 14 winners to Errani's five as this time, it was Errani with a bagel. The match was even at 0-6, 6-0. Williams appeared to have the edge, and she definitely had the crowd on her side.
The final set lasted longer than the first two sets combined. Williams led 5-3 and looked to have it locked up, until a critical double fault. At the time, she led Errani 30-0. She needed two points to seal the win. As she double faulted, the air seemed to go out of the stadium. Errani battled back, converting the break and bringing the score to 5-4. She held serve to make it 5-5.
By then, Williams looked exhausted. Her return game had nothing left. Errani, meanwhile, was surging. Both were grunting louder than usual.
The set went to a tiebreak, where Errani jumped out to a 4-2 lead. Williams battled to even it at 5, but that was her last run of the day. The tiebreak ended at 7-5, with Errani on top. Errani didn't win any additional fans as she taunted the crowd after the match. They'd been rowdy throughout, cheering on Williams and applauding every Errani error.
This was Williams' best performance here since 2010, when she made it to the semifinals. The last three years, she was ousted in the second round. She was back on the court in the afternoon with sister Serena for their second-round doubles victory over Oksana Kalashnikova and Olga Savchuk. The Williams sisters won 6-2, 6-1.
Errani will face qualifier Mirjana Lucic-Baroni in the fourth round. Lucic-Baroni pulled off the tournament's biggest upset so far, knocking off No. 2 seed Simona Halep, 7-6, 6-2.
Her unseeded status belies Lucic-Baroni's history at the U.S. Open. She first played here in 1997 – the same year that Williams debuted – and was a top 50 player in 1999. She didn't play from 2003-09, and had not advanced beyond the second round since 1998. In doubles, she and Martina Hingis teamed up to win the 1998 Australian Open.
As Lucic-Baroni wrapped up the win, another upset was underway on Court 17. There, unseeded Belinda Bencic of Switzerland defeated sixth seed Angelique Kerber 6-1, 7-5. Playing in her first U.S. Open main draw, 17-year-old Bencic has now topped her Wimbledon result, where she made it to the third round.
She is the second U.S. Open rookie to advance to this year's fourth round, joining 20-year-old Zarina Diyas of Kazakhstan. Bencic is the youngest player remaining in the main draw.
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