NEW YORK — At a U.S. Open that will be remembered for goodbyes by Andy Roddick and Kim Clijsters, another former No. 1 and Grand Slam champion, Venus Williams, left with a spirited second-round loss that felt nothing like a farewell.
Williams came within two points of winning, but dropped five of the last six games and ended up exiting early at a tournament she’s won twice, losing a 6-2, 5-7, 7-5 decision to sixth-seeded Angelique Kerber of Germany in a nearly 3-hour match that ended at 12:19 a.m. as Thursday turned to Friday.
Williams, the 2000 and 2001 champion at Flushing Meadows, finished with 60 unforced errors.
Last year, Williams departed the U.S. Open before her second-round match, suffering with Sjogren’s syndrome, an illness that causes joint pain and fatigue.
On Thursday, the unseeded Williams lost serve twice in the second set but came back both times to win and force a third set. But she lost serve at 5-5 and Kerber served out the set for the win.
Venus’ sister, Olympic and Wimbledon champion Serena Williams, seeded fourth, defeated Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez, 6-2, 6-4 while French Open finalist Sara Errani rolled over Vera Dushevina, 6-0, 6-1.
After several days without bracket-rattling upsets, things finally got complicated Thursday.
Jo-Wilfried Tsonga of France, seeded fifth and always seeming to threaten to break through at a major, could not get past Martin Klizan of Slovakia in his second-round match and fell in the biggest upset on the men’s side so far, 6-4, 1-6, 6-1, 6-3.
It seemed like Tsonga would not be the only high-profile victim of the day when Agniezska Radwanska, the No. 2 women’s seed, was down a set and a break, but she rallied to beat Carla Suarez Navarro of Spain. And American Mardy Fish fell two sets down to Nikolay Davydenko before pulling out his match in five sets.
Sloane Stephens, the young U.S. hope on the women’s side, had her struggles before finally dispatching Tatjana Malek of Germany, 5-7, 6-4, 6-2, to move onto the third round.
Top-seeded Roger Federer played what looked like a practice match for the 17-time Grand Slam champion — a 6-2, 6-3, 6-2 victory over No. 83 Bjorn Phau of Germany, a player who beat Federer the first time they met, what seems like a lifetime ago, back in 1999.
“I don’t think it was a matter of him going more to the net or not,” Phau said. “The way he played today, he was really focused, really playing well, actually.”
Federer needed only 90 minutes to close out the match. He finished with 44 winners to 16 for his overmatched opponent and also with 15 aces, many of them not so much of the overpowering sort, but acutely angled shots Phau simply couldn’t reach.
In another match of note, Serbia’s Ana Ivanovic put two match wins together for the first time in a month with the former number one advancing, 6-2, 6-2, over Sweden’s Sofia Arvidsson.