By Erik Gudris | Wednesday, August 27, 2014
Venus Williams held off her determined opponent to reach the US Open third round for the first time in four years.
Photo Credit: AP
Reaching the third round of the US Open may not seem like a huge step for Venus Williams. But considering her recent history at the event, her win on Wednesday night felt like the two-time champion cleared a big hurdle in her well-documented comeback.
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Back in 2011, Williams withdrew from the event after revealing a recent diagnosis for Sjogren's syndrome, an autoimmune disease. Williams returned to the US Open, but was unable to clear the second round as she lost in two tough matches to Angelique Kerber in 2012 and then last year to Zheng Jie.
2014 is a very different year for Williams. Feeling healthier, Williams won the Dubai title earlier this season and now finds herself back inside the top 20.
Wednesday night, she entered Arthur Ashe Stadium ready to face another potentially tricky second round opponent who also is climbing back from injury.
Timea Bacsinszky of Switzerland was once ranked as high as No. 37 in the world. Yet after suffering an almost career ending foot injury, Bacsinszky is now back inside the top 100. With big, flat shots, many thought Bacsinszky could pose trouble for Williams.
That didn't happen early on though.
Williams came out looking sharp, especially in her movement. Changing direction on the baseline to chase down a shot, Williams then ripped a winning forehand pass. With a break lead at 3-1, Williams didn't look back.
Striking only five unforced errors, Williams played a nearly perfect 6-1 set.
Bacsinszky regrouped in the second set and then the match many expected became reality. With Bacsinszky cutting down on her errors while striking more winners, the Swiss stayed level. Williams threw in several pinpoint lobs along with her usual lightning fast groundstroke winners. Bacsinszky, who faced multiple break points, fought them all off.
That was until 4-all, when Williams finally secured the break giving her the chance to serve it out. Though Williams would face a break point herself at 5-4, Bacsinszky helped her out by being too aggressive with a second serve return that she netted.
Williams soon created match point and with one final potent serve secured the 6-1, 6-4 win.
That victory propels Williams into the US Open third round for the first time since 2010. She'll next meet Italy's Sara Errani.
"You know, the last couple years I fought really hard and I really played red-hot opponents. So it wasn't like I didn't try," Williams said as she reflected on getting back to the third round. "My opponents, they played so well. Sometimes you don't win 'em. That's why you get up and you live to fight another day. So that's really what it's about for me."
Williams admitted in an on-court interview that she does hit harder by instinct when the stakes get higher. But it's her defense of late that she is more pleased with this summer.
"Well, this summer I'm playing a lot of tournaments. I was playing a lot of great defense. Even today some good defense, as well. I played a lot of defensive players this summer. It was interesting because my defense was really on par with theirs, which is interesting for an offensive player. So that feels good, as well, to know that I can get over there and retrieve some balls."
Another player also enjoying a resurgence after a tough season last year is Roger Federer. Williams enjoys watching the Swiss great compete on court and admires his career, especially when things didn't go his way.
"What I love about Roger is he gives 100% even if he's not 100%, and he never complains. If he's not feeling his best, he still competes well and just comes back and lives to fight another day. So in any case, besides the fact that he plays beautiful tennis, I hope we all keep playing forever as 30 somethings."
Williams' potential return to the second week in New York would be a welcomed one for fans after several years of wondering if they had seen the last of the seven-time Grand Slam champion. And on that wish of playing forever? Well, if we've learned anything about the resilient and evergreen Williams, don't be too quick to count her out of reaching that goal either.