Venus Williams is going to have a lot more time to prepare for her upcoming tournaments in Asia than she really wanted, thanks to one of Asia's top players.
China's Zheng Jie advanced to the third round of the US Open on Wednesday by outlasting seven-time Grand Slam champion Williams 6-3, 2-6, 7-6 (7/5) after three hours and two minutes.
"Today is tough match for me," Zheng said. "Unbelievable I can beat her."
Deadlocked 5-5 in the tie-breaker, 60th-ranked Williams sent a backhand volley into the net to give 56th-ranked Zheng her first match-point chance. When Williams sent a backhand wide, Zheng jumped for joy in triumph.
"It was amazing. I still feel tight," Zheng said. "The tie-breaker was so close. Exciting for me of course."
Williams was still ruefully recalling the missed volley more than an hour later.
"I should have made the shot," Williams said. "I think I was just rushing. I rushed so badly. I just didn't make the shot.
"I had a lot of opportunities in the match. I was always stepping up and putting myself in a good position. So this is a great sign. Just not playing consistently enough. I just dug myself into so many holes the whole match. I just fought as hard as I could to get out of them, but it wasn't enough."
Williams, the 2000 and 2001 US Open champion, had been the oldest remaining player in the field at 33. She had been nagged by back pain that kept her out of Wimbledon, where she is a five-time champion, but is now healthy.
Now she looks forward to playing the upcoming Asian swing of WTA events, which includes Seoul, Tokyo, Guangzhou, Beijing and Osaka. She also could defend a title in October in Luxembourg.
"I have to think about this fall, just playing maybe quite a few tournaments just to get some momentum going into next season," Williams said.
"I'll go to Asia. I haven't been there in quite a few years because of injury and illness. I'm looking forward to that. I'm looking forward to hopefully being able to pull everything together and get as healthy as possible and continue to play."
Zheng, 30, matched her best US Open runs -- third-round efforts in 2008, 2009 and 2012 -- and apologized to Williams' home-soil supporters after the match.
"Sorry guys," she said. "Venus she is a very good player but I wanted to win also."
Williams, who said "I couldn't pray for a ball in in the first set," hit 29 winners to only 18 for Zheng but also committed 44 unforced errors, 13 more than Zheng.
"I played OK in the first set. In the second set I knew she would come back. The second set I lost my concentration and she played so great. The final set we were fighting each other. This is very good for me and will help me for the next match."
Zheng, who lost her only prior match against Williams in the second round at Miami in 2004, will play for a berth in the round of 16 against Carla Suarez Navarro.
"She plays so well. Her backhand is so great," Zheng said of the 18th-seeded Spaniard. "It's a tough match for me."