New York: Venus Williams again finds herself on the sidelines in the first week of the US Open, but the two-time champion didn`t go down without a fight.
The 34-year-old American came up short against Italian Sara Errani in the third round on Friday, but still found some positives after the 6-0, 0-6, 7-6 (7/5) defeat to take into the remainder of the season.
"Sometimes you lose a match. At least if I lose a match it`s a rough fight from my opponent," the 34-year-old said. "They don`t get it easy. So that`s something to be proud of."
Williams, whose Dubai Open title in February was her first in 16 months, had failed to make it past the second round at Flushing Meadows for three straight years.
But she had been hoping for better things this year, especially after reaching the final of the hardcourt tune-up in Montreal this month.
"Today my errors were out of control," Williams lamented. "I think I had more than double hers, so that really, really hurt me.
"I wish I could have controlled that to continue a great summer, but still some big tournaments left in the Fall. I`m in the doubles, so I`ve got a lot to be focused on."
Errani kept her nerve against Williams -- and a legion of partisan fans in Arthur Ashe Stadium -- to pull off the victory.
Although Errani went in as the higher seed, at 13th to Williams` 19th, she had never beaten the American in three prior encounters, and in fact had never taken more than three games from her in any set.
The Italian didn`t seem to be thinking about that as she raced through the opening frame, aided by Williams` first-serve struggles and errant strokes.
"First set, I started very good, very aggressive," Errani said. "I was playing very good. She didn`t put too many first serves, so maybe that was a bit the key."
Everything changed in the second, however, as Williams managed to limit her mistakes. She dominated the set to force a third, that proved to be a tense back-and-forth battle.
Twice Williams recovered from a break down, and she finally gained the upper hand with a break for a 5-3 lead.
However, Williams couldn`t serve it out, surrendering the break with a wayward forehand.
From there they went to the tiebreaker, and Williams was on the ropes again as she trailed 2-5.To the delight of the crowd, she fought back to 5-5, and the noise and energy of the fans was a new experience for Errani.
"To go 5-All in the tiebreak I heard the crowd," Errani said. "I was shaking for the crowd. Was unbelievable good. I think I will remember forever that moment."
Williams knotted the tiebreaker with a passing winner, but that was her last hurrah as Errani produced what the American called "really flawless tennis" on the final two points.
"I`m very happy," Errani said. "Two weeks ago I won one match 7-6 in the third and the day later a lost 7-6 in the third. These matches can change with nothing, with one point. Five-All in the tiebreak I made that volley. Unbelievable. If I don`t do that, maybe I lose."