The scoreline was an odd one, to say the least: 6-0, 0-6, 7-6. The fact that it was in favor of Sara Errani makes it even more odd, given the fact that in three previous head-to-heads, the diminutive Italian had never even taken a set off Venus Williams, the two-time US Open champion who had designs on a return trip to the final for the first time in nearly a decade and a half.
The first-set shutout, which lasted just 26 minutes and included 18 unforced errors by the 34-year-old tour veteran, was the first the former No. 1 had suffered at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center since 2009, when eventual titlist Kim Clijsters blanked her in the opening set of their fourth-round clash. But just as soon as tennis fans were coming to terms with what had just occurred in Arthur Ashe Stadium, Williams, the No. 19 seed, was returning the favor, dictating play from the baseline and even charging the net on occasion.
Williams won her seventh consecutive game to open the final set, but the feisty Errani, who’s made a living sending opponents from corner to corner along the baseline with her versatile game, wasn’t done yet. Though Williams would serve for the match at 5-3, Errani would storm back to force a telltale third-set tiebreak. And that’s where the Italian asserted herself, setting up a match point at 5-5 with a highlight-reel backhand volley at the net, then a cross-court forehand winner to complete the comeback.
"Venus is a great player, unbelievable player," Errani reflected after the win. "Every time I played against her she won against me very easy. So I thought that I had to make my level higher, try to be much more aggressive, and try to keep my focus every point."