The winner was Sara Errani of Italy, a feisty, small doubles player who turned out to be just feisty enough in her 6-0, 0-6, 7-6 (5) victory, played out before a huge center court crowd that ebbed and flowed with the emotion of the match.
Williams is a two-time U.S. Open champion. She is also 34, and seemed to show her age in a listless first-set performance. But she rallied her energy and the crowd, and actually got herself into prime position to win, serving for the match at 5-3.
But Errani, whose strange service motion — she pulls the racket back and rests it on her shoulder before making her toss — never stopped trying. She won with a cross court forehand winner that wrong-footed Williams. That was after Williams had rallied from 2-5 down in the tiebreaker.
Many in the crowd probably looked upon this as a huge upset, but Errani entered the match seeded No. 13, six spots better than Williams.
Williams hit some wonderful shots, as she has been capable of during her now 18-year career. She also hit lots of bad ones — 52 unforced errors in all. Errani made 25.
Asked how she felt after her 6-0, second-set loss, Errani told the on-court interviewer, “I was ready to just fight.”
That she did.
The two had played three times previously. Williams had won all three in straight sets. The most games Errani had ever won against Venus Williams before Friday on Ashe was three.