U.S. Open: Errani beats V. Williams with ‘cottage cheese’ serve


NEW YORK — A day before facing Venus Williams — and a partisan crowd — at the U.S. Open, Italy’s Sara Errani came across a video posted on Twitter that gave her a little extra motivation.

It showed a pair of former players and coaches, Brad Gilbert and Darren Cahill, forecasting Friday at Flushing Meadows. Both picked Williams to win.

The 13th-seeded Errani’s ears perked up particularly when Gilbert referred to her “cottage cheese” serve and predicted she’d win only four games.

So much for that. In a riveting third-round match of wild momentum swings, the 19th-seeded Williams, a two-time U.S. Open champion, came within two points of victory four times before succumbing to Errani 6-0, 0-6, 7-6 (5).

As if needing a reminder of what she’d seen online, Errani was interviewed for TV by Cahill before the match, and by Gilbert afterward.

“Let’s just say that during the match I thought about that (video) more than once,” said Errani, who pounded her chest with a fist and put a finger to her lips on court as if to hush doubters — or the loud folks in Arthur Ashe Stadium pulling for her American opponent.

Williams is 34, dealing with an autoimmune disease, and hasn’t been to the fourth round at a major since 2011. She also played a doubles match Thursday with her sister Serena that lasted about 2 1/2 hours and finished shortly before 8 p.m.

“I guess the schedule definitely wasn’t ideal,” Williams said. “It was just such a late match.”

After losing to Errani, Williams went on court again for doubles and won that one, although she was treated by a trainer.

Williams did not blame injury or fatigue for the way she failed to close out Errani, including getting broken while serving at 5-3 in the third.

“I went for too much,” explained Williams, 3-0 against Errani until Friday.

“She just played one of the best matches of her life,” Williams added.

Errani is listed at 5-foot-4 1/2 — 8 1/2 inches shorter than Williams — and truly, there is just as big a disparity in their serving. Errani’s top speed Friday was 88 mph, about 30 mph slower than Williams. Errani’s second serves were in the low 60s mph, but she got 86 percent of her first serves in.

“I know (people) say my serve is terrible, but it helped me get to where I’ve been,” Errani said. “It’s not easy to improve it. It’s definitely one of my weak points, but today it helped me.”

Her next opponent will be another surprise winner: 32-year-old qualifier Mirjana Lucic-Baroni of Croatia, who eliminated No. 2-seeded Simona Halep of Romania 7-6 (6), 6-2. Lucic-Baroni hadn’t reached the fourth round at a major since getting to Wimbledon’s semifinals in 1999.

“I feel,” she said, “like a little kid; like this is the first time ever.”

Half of the top eight seeded women already are out, with Halep joining No. 6 Angelique Kerber (beaten 6-1, 7-5 Friday by 17-year-old Belinda Bencic of Switzerland), and earlier losers No. 4 Agnieszka Radwanska and No. 8 Ana Ivanovic.

No. 5 Maria Sharapova, a five-time major champion, avoided that sort of upset by beating 2013 Wimbledon runner-up Sabine Lisicki 6-2, 6-4 in a match that ended after midnight.

Sharapova trailed 3-1 in the second set, but took five of the last six games after Lisicki was told by chair umpire Carlos Ramos that he thought she was receiving coaching help, which isn’t allowed during Grand Slam matches.

The men’s draw, in contrast, has gone pretty much to form. No. 2 Roger Federer’s 6-4, 6-4, 6-4 victory over Australia’s Sam Groth at night closed the second round with only two top-20 men departed: No. 11 Ernests Gulbis and No. 15 Fabio Fognini, both eliminated Friday.

U.S. OPEN

NEW YORK — A look at Friday’s play at the $38.3 million U.S. Open tennis championships:

MEN’S SEEDED WINNERS: Second Round: No. 2 Roger Federer, No. 4 David Ferrer, No. 6 Tomas Berdych, No. 7 Grigor Dimitrov, No. 12 Richard Gasquet, No. 14 Marin Cilic, No. 17 Roberto Bautista Agut, No. 18 Kevin Anderson, No. 19 Feliciano Lopez, No. 20 Gael Monfils and No. 26 Gilles Simon.

MEN’S SEEDED LOSERS: No. 11 Ernests Gulbis, No. 15 Fabio Fognini, No. 25 Ivo Karlovic and No. 32 Joao Sousa.

WOMEN’S SEEDED WINNERS: Third Round: No. 5 Maria Sharapova, No. 9 Jelena Jankovic, No. 10 Caroline Wozniacki, No. 13 Sara Errani and No. 14 Lucie Safarova.

WOMEN’S SEEDED LOSERS: No. 2 Simona Halep, No. 6 Angelique Kerber, No. 18 Andrea Petkovic, No. 19 Venus Williams, No. 22 Alize Cornet, No. 26 Sabine Lisicki and No. 28 Roberta Vinci.

TOP PLAYERS ON COURT SATURDAY: Men, Third Round: No. 1 Novak Djokovic vs. Sam Querrey, No. 3 Stan Wawrinka vs. Blaz Kavcic, No. 5 Milos Raonic vs. Victor Estrella Burgos, No. 8 Andy Murray vs. Andrey Kuznetsov, Women, Third Round: No. 1 Serena Williams vs. Varvara Lepchenko, No. 3 Petra Kvitova vs. Aleksandra Krunic, No. 7 Eugenie Bouchard vs. No. 30 Barbora Zahlavova Strycova, No. 16 Victoria Azarenka vs. Elena Vesnina.

STAT OF THE DAY: 52 — Unforced errors by Venus Williams in her loss to Sara Errani.

QUOTE OF THE DAY: "I feel like a little kid, like this is the first time ever happening." — Mirjana Lucic-Baroni, who reached the fourth round of a Grand Slam tournament for the first time in 15 years.

The Associated Press