In what was by far the most compelling match of the 2012 U.S. Open thus far, Angelique Kerber battled through a tough challenge from Venus Williams to defeat the two-time U.S. Open winner.
Williams was haunted throughout the first two sets by a surplus of unforced errors. Though her game improved dramatically in the second half of the match, it wasn't enough to overcome Kerber.
Williams has built her legacy as one of the most feared players in the history of the women's game in no small part due to her blistering serve. As it has for much of this season, Williams' serve abandoned her against Kerber, forcing her to search for victory in other aspects of her game.
Five games into the opening set of the match, Williams wasn't the only one having difficult with her serve. Each of the first five service games were broken, as Williams showed little difficulty in returning Kerber's serve, but far more trouble in placing her own.
Williams fussed with new rackets and grips, attempting to summon a better service game out of her equipment. Kerber found her rhythm and finished off the first set 6-2 through a combination of speed, stamina and relative consistency compared to Williams' flustered play.
As Williams' serve improved in the second set and the Flushing Meadows crowd found life, her entire demeanor changed as she used the entire court to place the ball with her customary accuracy.
No longer content to merely hit the ball back and forth from Kerber's forehand to backhand, she moved closer to the net. Her aggression paid off and after tightening the score, Williams tore away at the end of the set as Kerber appeared to temporarily lose focus, winning 7-5.
Williams continued to ride the wave of home-court advantage in the third set. She maintained the energy that she showed in the latter half of the second set, as Kerber became flustered by the crowd noise, complaining repeatedly about shouts from the crowd.
After a couple of choppy games, Kerber played ably in the third set, once again using her speed to her advantage. She took a lead of 6-5 in the final set as Williams fought through exhaustion, and closed out the final game with relative ease to win 6-2, 5-7, 7-5.
Kerber advances to play Olga Govortsova of Belarus in the next round of the Open. Govortsova has not advanced past the first round of the U.S. Open since 2008 and Kerber will be the heavy favorite.