NEW YORK — The enormity of what is at stake for Serena Williams at the U.S. Open — the first true Grand Slam in tennis in more than a quarter of a century — hit her Wednesday.
That, she said, is why her play was so uneven in the second round at Flushing Meadows, despite facing a qualifier ranked only 110th.
And it’s why, after the 10 double-faults, two dozen other unforced errors and an all-around sloppy first set, Williams got pointers from coach Patrick Mouratoglou and headed straight to a practice court to put in work, hoping to repair what plagued her during a 7-6 (5), 6-3 victory over Kiki Bertens of the Netherlands.
“Today, I was a little tight,” Williams said. “I think it showed.”
She got broken early. She double-faulted four times in one game. She didn’t manage to earn a break point against the strong-serving Bertens until the 10th game. Williams trailed 5-3 in the first set, finally broke for 5-all, but then needed to erase a 4-0 deficit in the tiebreaker.
“Until today, I was OK with it. I just got a little nervous today,” the 33-year-old American said. “But I’ve been doing totally fine. I’ve been completely relaxed, chill. I’ve been really, really fine. So I’m going to get back into the place that I was, and I’ll be fine again.”
Venus Williams, the U.S. Open champion in 2000-01, got past Irina Falconi 6-3, 6-7 (2), 6-2, while Belinda Bencic saved three match points, cried during a changeover and argued with the chair umpire en route to coming back to beat Misaki Doi 5-7, 7-6 (3), 6-3.
After Venus finished her match in Arthur Ashe Stadium, No. 1 Novak Djokovic split the first eight games against 52nd-ranked Andreas Haider-Maurer of Austria before running away with a 6-4, 6-1, 6-2 victory, then doing a towel-waving jig on court with a man brought out of the stands.
Thumbnail photo via Geoff Burke/USA TODAY Sports Images