Serena Williams returns a shot during her second-round victory over Maria… (Mike Groll / Associated…)
NEW YORK — Late night tennis arrived Thursday at the U.S. Open and it took away Venus Williams.
Angelique Kerber, a semifinalist here last year and the No. 6 seed this year, withstood a barrage of volleys from the 32-year-old Williams and took out the former champion 6-2, 5-7, 7-5.
Williams had withdrawn from this tournament a year ago before her second round, announcing she had been diagnosed as suffering from Sjogren's syndrome, an autoimmune disease that is energy sapping. Yet Williams never stopped attacking with her shots, even until the end of her 2 hour 45-minute loss.
Kerber kept scrambling from the baseline, forcing Williams to play extra shots, more and more until there were no more to come.
"I fought as hard as I could," Williams said. "All I had was fight because I didn't play well. Unfortunately, I was fighting her and me."
Earlier in the day Serena Williams, Venus's younger sister, brightened Arthur Ashe Stadium by wearing a girlie-girl bright pink tennis dress, one that seemed suitable for a cocktail party but remained appropriate for Williams' firebrand style of tennis.
At the same time that Serena's 30-year-old American contemporary, Andy Roddick, was announcing his retirement from tennis whenever his U.S. Open run ends, Serena was pounding her way into the third round by serving 11 aces and also showing cleverness and perseverance while beating Spanish baseline wizard Maria Jose Martinez-Sanchez, 6-2, 6-4.
Venus was unable to follow though.
"I fought hard but I just kept making errors," said Venus, who had 60 unforced mistakes in the match. She also was adamant that she was not ready for retirement yet.
"If I could have made maybe two more shots, I probably could have won this match," Venus said. "I'm not getting destroyed out there."
The fourth-seeded Serena, even as she was hitting winners and chasing down drop shots, would grumble or shake her head, disappointed in her play.
"It was one of those days," Serena said. "I wasn't really happy with the way I was playing. I think I just woke up on the wrong side of the bed."
Serena said she was not hindered by her left ankle, which she injured and had treated during a doubles match she and Venus won on Wednesday.
"I was running for a shot and rolled it," Williams said. "Story of my ankle life. But it's fine. I did a lot of ice and tape and compression to keep the swelling out. I rolled it in Australia [earlier this year], so I was a little nervous. But it's fine."
The men's top-seeded player, Roger Federer, had an easy trip into the third round, needing only 90 minutes to dispose of Germany's Bjorn Phau, 6-2, 6-3, 6-2.
The first major upset of the tournament occurred when fifth-seeded Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, who a year ago reached the U.S. Open quarterfinals and charmed the New York crowd with his tantalizing, attacking tennis and his appreciative demeanor, lost in the second round to 23-year-old Martin Klizan of Slovakia, 6-4, 1-6, 6-1, 6-3.
"It seemed like I couldn't hit the ball enough hard to put my opponent out of position," Tsonga said. "I don't really know why it was like this today, but sometimes it happens with me." Tsonga said he was not dealing with an injury.
"It's tennis," he said.
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Varvara Lepchenko (31)
vs. Samantha Stosur (7)
Rogerio Dutra Silva vs. Novak Djokovic (2)
Maria Sharapova (3) vs. Mallory Burdette
Li Na (9) vs. Laura Robson
Juan Martin del Potro (7) vs. Ryan Harrison
Jarkko Nieminen vs. John Isner (9)
Igor Sjisling vs. David Ferrer (4)
Pauline Parmentier vs. Petra Kvitova (5)
Nadia Petrova (19) vs. Lucie Safarova (15)
Janko Tipsarevic (8) vs. Brian Baker
Andy Roddick (20) vs. Bernard Tomic
Victoria Azarenka (1) vs. Zheng Jie (28)