USA TODAY Sports
NEW YORK (USA TODAY) - Venus Williams entered the U.S. Open with limited play because of a nagging back injury.
She exited Wednesday after a strong performance by Zheng Jie of China, who knocked off the two-time champion 6-2, 2-6, 7-6 (7-5).
The match was the longest on the women's side so far in the tournament, 3 hours, 2 minutes.
It's tied for the fifth-longest women's match since 1970.
During her on-court interview, Zheng addressed the partisan crowd that was pulling for Williams, saying: "First, I want to say, 'Sorry, guys.'"
The third set alone lasted 1½ hours, and Williams missed a volley, then a return, on the last two points.
Rain interrupted the match just after it started, and then again at 5-5 in the third set.
Williams rallied from a set down to even the match, from 4-1 down in the third set and from 4-1 down in the tiebreaker.
Williams, at 33 was the oldest woman in the second round, has been struggling with energy-sapping autoimmune disorder Sjogren's syndrome, which was diagnosed two years ago.
She was ranked No. 1 in 2002, but she last was a member of the top 10 when she was No. 9 in March 2011, and she's currently 60th. The last time she made it beyond the third round at a Grand Slam tournament was a fourth-round appearance at Wimbledon that season.
She has said she aims to be on the 2016 Olympic team, playing doubles with Serena for the USA.