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By Chris Oddo | Friday, August 29, 2014

 
Sara Errani Day 5 2014 US Open

Sara Errani produced a thrilling late rally to overcome Venus Williams in a third-set tiebreaker on Day 5.

Photo Source: Getty

It was long, it was gripping, it was nerve-wracking. And though it started with a pair of bagels, there were plenty of meat and potatoes by the end.

More Day 5: Bencic's Surprise | Monf's Acrobatics | Lucic-Baroni Turns Back Clock | Robredo's Milestone

Sara Errani’s hard-fought 6-0, 0-6, 7-6(5), victory over Venus Williams was all of that and more. It was the perfect showcase for the depth of the women’s game (neither player currently in the top 10 but both in possession of such athleticism and moxie) and it highlighted the sizzle of women’s tennis in such a way that it would be hard to be too disappointed about the outcome no matter which player one rooted for.

Errani Into Fourth Round

In the end Errani would charge forth and take the victory, fighting back from 3-5 down to force a tiebreaker, and then winning the most grueling, most important of points at 5-all in said tiebreaker on the strength of everything that has made her a viable hard-court player in the last few years: Incredible fitness, consistency, touch at the net, the willingness to empty every ounce of her energy on every single point and belief.

The Italian would only need one match point to close out the victory, and send Venus Williams to a disappointing defeat once again at a major. It’s the type of loss that Williams has become accustomed to in the last few years, with her stamina sapped due to her ongoing battle with Sjogren’s Syndrome.

At 34, many feel she’d be better served skipping the doubles to save her energy for the singles and, maybe, one last run deep into the second week of a major, but Williams marches to the beat of her own drummer. After a three-set doubles match on Thursday, Williams was to take the court again on Friday with her sister Serena, which is why her press conference hadn’t happened at the time of this article’s posting.

But Errani spoke for the both of them when she talked about the electric atmosphere of this match. “Never hear the crowd like that strong,” she said. “I was shaking for the crowd. Was unbelievable good. I think I will remember forever that moment.”

Williams, who had taken all three previous meetings against Errani in straight sets, started slowly in the match, dropping the first six games, but she quickly responded with an incredible set to take the next six games to force a decider.

It was in the final set that both players brought everything they had to make it a truly special contest—one of the best of this year’s US Open thus far.

The intensity and frenetic pace of the rallies, and the heavy groundstrokes they exchanged under pressure and duress, made for some eye-popping tennis. Whether Williams suffered from playing doubles on Thursday or not, the 34-year-old had her chances to win, and whether it was due to fatigue, nerves or Errani’s serendipity, she just couldn’t get over the hump.

Still, once again, Williams proved that at 34, she’s still a formidable opponent with the potential to beat any player on tour on any stage. That she didn’t today is more a testament to Errani’s fervor, doggedness and clutch play more than it is due to any shortcomings from Williams.

“I think she's playing unbelievable,” Errani said of Williams level, after the match. “I really don't know how I won today.”


 

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