WHAT HAPPENED: The atmosphere at night on Wednesday was a bit different from No. 19 seed Venus Williams’ first-round match during the day session on Monday. But the end result was the same – a win over her opponent, this time Timea Bacsinszky of Switzerland, 6-1, 6-4.
A two-time US Open champion (2000, 2001) Williams, 34, served to start the match but struggled with nerves, catching her ball toss a few times, and immediately faced a break point. She ultimately won the game, moving well and pushing her opponent around the court.
Williams frequently stood inside the baseline to return second serves and the force and precision behind the American’s shots proved to pressure her 25-year-old opponent. In the fourth game, a double fault from Bacsinszky proved costly as Williams, with the backing of the crowd, found better form and earned the break with a forehand winner for a 3-1 lead. After the former world No. 1 held at 4-1, Aretha Franklin’s “Respect” played on the speakers during the changeover.
The temperatures in Arthur Ashe Stadium had cooled from the day session but the new crowd had not, buzzing throughout the match, much to the frustration of the Swiss, who quietly complained to the umpire about the noise. In the sixth game of the first set, Bacsinszky quickly went down 0-40 as Williams executed a perfectly placed lob, and despite saving the three break points, Williams broke her again for a 5-1 lead. Serving for the set, Williams used a 112-mph ace and an overhead smash winner to her advantage, easily winning the game and the set 6-1 in 31 minutes.
In the first eight games of the second set, both women held their nerve and their serve, giving the crowd great tennis, including a 16-shot rally, the longest of the match. The tide turned when Williams was finally able to capitalize on her fifth break chance of the second set thanks to a backhand error from her opponent for a 5-4 lead.
As Williams served for the match, Bacsinszky earned a break point to try and stay in the match, but lost it with a forehand error. It only took one match point for the oldest woman left in the draw to close out a win in 96 minutes.
“It’s good to be out here,” Williams said on court after her win. “Watching Serena last night, she played so well so I tried to do the same thing.”
The seven-time Grand Slam winner later said "I feel like I'm playing well. I feel like I play my best when my opponent pushes me really. Once we start to, you know, really start to get into a slugfest, I feel like I really relax."
WHAT IT MEANS: In her 16th US Open appearance, Williams notched her 64th match win here, and tied younger sister Serena for No. 1 all-time in night session victories with 27. She also moved into the third round, where she’ll face No. 13 seed Sara Errani, who beat Anastasia Rodionova earlier in the evening, 6-4, 7-6.
Williams, on how she will approach her next match against Errani, said she will "really just focus because she's so focused. She does everything well on the court clearly, because she's a great singles player and a doubles player."
THE QUESTION: What do you think Venus will need to do to get the better of Errani on Friday?