Article following her second round win against Venus Williams (US Open 2012)
NEW YORK, NY, USA - The night session on Arthur Ashe Stadium was the site of blowout after blowout all week, with the favorites - men and women - dropping an average of just one or two games per set. That all changed on Thursday night, and while the favorite still won, the challenge was anything but average.
When a World No.6 with 54 match wins on the season takes on a World No.46 with 19 match wins on the season, the going looks tough for the underdog. And early on in the match it was, as a rock solid Angelique Kerber built a 62 20 lead on Venus Williams with three points for 62 30; but it was far from over.
"Venus was fighting in the second set and played great shots in the important moments,"
Kerber said of the turning point. "I couldn't do anything."
Williams won that game to close to 62 21, and she would eventually win 11 of 16 games to take the second set, 7-5, and lead 4-2 in the third. The momentum seemed too strong for the former No.1 - but again, it was far from over.
"In the third she was up, and I just fought every point,"
Kerber said. "I had in my mind matches where I was down match ball and won, so I knew I could change it. I wasn't thinking of the time or the score, I was just trying to win points."
Kerber would eventually close Williams out in a nail-biter, 62 57 75.
"I knew this was not an easy second round,"
Kerber said. "She's such a great player. She has won so many Grand Slams. And I knew before the match the crowd would be behind her. But it was an unbelievable feeling to play her out there, and it's the first night match I've won here, so it's very special."
Williams has had five Top 10 wins since returning to the tour in March from a seven-month illness lay-off, but none at a Slam - but there's definitely a bright side, something the American was well aware of after the match.
"Today all I had was fight because I didn't play well. I don't feel like I put together more than two good points before I had to make two or three errors," Williams said. "I looked at the stats, and I made 60 errors. It's difficult to win like that.
"But if I could have made two more shots, I probably could have won that match. I'm beating myself. If I was out there and people were killing me, maybe it's time to hang it up. But right now I have to find the answer inside myself. The best part is that I'm playing my game, I'm playing aggressive, and I know they'll land. Unfortunately I had to pay a heavy price today - but at least the last shot I missed, I was going for the gold. I didn't get the gold, but I really went for it.
"At least I can go to sleep today and know I didn't try to push it in and hope for the best, because that's just not me."
And there was another bright side for Williams, a more personal bright side.
"There were a lot of people shouting out. This was the first time I've played here where the crowd has been behind me like that. Today I really felt American, for the first time at the US Open. I've waited my whole career to have this moment, and here it is. I hope I have that support in doubles, and next year as well."