NEW YORK – At a U.S. Open that will be remembered for goodbyes by Andy Roddick and Kim Clijsters, another former No. 1 and Grand Slam champion, Venus Williams, left with a spirited second-round loss that felt nothing like a farewell.
Hours after Roddick chose the occasion of his 30th birthday to let the tennis world in on a little secret he’d been keeping – he’ll retire after his run at Flushing Meadows ends – Williams served poorly and stumbled badly for a set and a half before recovering to make things quite competitive.
Williams came within two points of winning, but dropped five of the last six games and ended up exiting early at a tournament she’s won twice, beaten 6-2, 5-7, 7-5 by sixth-seeded Angelique Kerber of Germany in a nearly 3-hour match that ended as Thursday turned to Friday.
A year ago at the U.S. Open, Williams didn’t get the chance to play in the second round, withdrawing hours before the match and announcing she had Sjogren’s syndrome, an autoimmune disease that can cause fatigue.
This time, buoyed by chants of “Let’s go, Venus!” in a mostly empty Arthur Ashe Stadium, Williams found the resolve and energy to put aside her 16 double-faults and 60 total unforced errors (more than double Kerber’s 25) and help produce as entertaining a contest as the arena has hosted this week.
Roddick’s impending departure overshadowed some otherwise noteworthy on-court developments Thursday afternoon.
There was the loss by fifth-seeded Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, the 2008 Australian Open runner-up, against a man ranked 52nd.
And there was a spate of victories by American men, two who are Roddick’s contemporaries and good pals (32-year-old James Blake and 30-year-old Mardy Fish), and two who have been viewed as possible successors as the best the country has to offer in the sport (19-year-old Jack Sock and 24-year-old Sam Querrey).
Also, 17-time major champion Roger Federer moved into the third round with a routine 6-2, 6-3, 6-2 victory over 83rd-ranked Bjorn Phau of Germany on Thursday night.