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’s 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 Wimbledon in 1999.
“I feel,” she said, “like a little kid; like this is the first time ever.”
Halep, the French Open runner-up and Wimbledon semifinalist, had three set points in the first while ahead 5-2, before collapsing.
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, was hoping to avoid another upset when she played 2013 Wimbledon runner-up Sabine Lisicki in Friday’s last match.
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.