New York City, USA: Six-time winner Serena Williams reached her tenth consecutive US Open quarter-finals with a 6-0 4-6 6-3 victory over Kaia Kanepi at Flushing Meadows in New York on Sunday.
Williams, 36, took the first set in only 18 minutes as she converted all three break points she earned and did not drop a point on her first serve.
But Estonia’s Kanepi responded, displaying some of the shot-making that helped her beat world number one Simona Halep in the first round.
Williams broke early in the third set as she completed her win in 97 minutes.
A positive omen for Williams: She also beat Kanepi in the fourth round the last time she won the Open, in 2014.
Sunday’s match was a battle of first-strike tennis: Of the 146 points in the match, only four lasted nine or more shots.
Though the match lasted only 1 hour 37 minutes, Williams said she was happy with her endurance. That has been the area of the most marked improvement since her run to the Wimbledon final in July.
And the American warned her rivals that her fitness has improved since reaching the Wimbledon final in July. She returned to competitive tennis in March after a year out during which she gave birth to her first child.
“It wasn’t an easy match at all,” said Williams, who last won the US Open title in 2014. “Kaia knows how to play and has a lot of big wins. She has had a great career.
“We always have tough matches, so I am just happy to get through. She was hitting such big returns so I wanted to hit bigger second serves.
“I like it when players challenge me to do that. I think what I have improved most is my fitness. Coming back from having a baby is really hard.”
Williams said she had been deceived by “the Instagram world” into thinking that recovering from giving birth a year ago would be a simple, nearly instantaneous process.
“In the real world, it takes a while for your body to come back,” she said. “Especially after a C-section, I think it takes a little bit longer. And not only that, like mentally and physically and dealing emotionally with providing for another child, it’s a lot that goes into it. And I was just living in this world where I thought it would just automatically come together.”
The 23-time Grand Slam singles champion will have her fitness and the rest of her game tested further in the quarterfinals on Tuesday, where she will face another big-hitter: eighth-seeded Karolina Pliskova, who was the last player to beat Williams at the Open, winning their 2016 semifinal in straight sets.
“That will be, I think, a match I want to repeat on Arthur Ashe,” said Pliskova, who advanced to the quarterfinals for a third consecutive year with a 6-4, 6-4 victory over 18th-seeded Ashleigh Barty.
Anastasija Sevastova, No. 19 seed, reached the quarterfinals for a third straight year, beating the seventh-seeded Elina Svitolina, 6-3, 1-6, 6-0.
In other women’s action, No. 19 Anastasija Sevastova upset No. 7-seeded Elina Svitolina in three sets to reach the quarters. She now awaits the winner of No. 3 seed Sloane Stephens — the defending champion — and No. 15 Elise Mertens.
On the men’s side of the tournament, No. 1 seed Rafael Nadal defeated Nikoloz Basilashvili 6-3, 6-3, 6-7 (6), 6-4 on Sunday at Flushing Meadows. Nadal will challenge No. 9 Dominic Thiem in the quarters, who upended No. 5 Kevin Anderson in the fourth round.
American John Isner outlasted Canada’s Milos Raonic in five sets to advance. Isner will return to the U.S. Open quarterfinals for the first time since 2011 after the victory.
EARLIER : Serena Williams Beat Sister Venus At U.S. Open
Serena Williams beat her big sister, Venus Williams, 6-1, 6-2 in their highly-anticipated matchup on Friday at the U.S. Open in Queens — their 30th head-to-head match since they first competed against each other 20 years ago.
The sisters — Serena seeded 17th and Venus 16th — played each other in the third round of the Grand Slam tournament. Serena, 36, beat out Venus, 38, with 2-0 in sets and will now move on to the round of 16.
The sisters congratulated each other briefly at the net before Venus left the court as the crowd saluted her with a standing ovation and Serena stayed back for the post-match interview.
“It’s not easy,” Serena said of beating her big sister Venus in an interview after the match. “She’s my best friend, she means the world to me. She’s so supportive of my career and I’m extremely supportive of her career and every time she loses I feel like I do. So yeah, it’s not very easy, but it’s a tournament and we all know that there’s more to life than just playing each other and playing tennis.”
Discussing her post-baby comeback, Serena said after the match, “Obviously I played much better today than actually I have since I came back to playing tennis. Absolutely this was my best match since I’ve returned, but I’ve worked for it. You know, I’ve worked really, really hard this past three months, four months, especially the past eight weeks and hopefully everything will keep paying off. That’s just life, you gotta keep going no matter how many downs you have, or how many ups you have you have to keep working hard, and that’s what I’ve tried to do.”
Speaking of family members, Serena also talked about her dad in the post-match interview.
“I hope my dad didn’t watch! It’s his two daughters playing each other, it’s not very easy. I’ll talk to him obviously, tomorrow, and then he’ll be watching again after this match is over. I know he probably is just feeling as nervous as we both were,” she said before sending him a loving message: “Hi dad, I miss you, I love you.”
As she walked off the court, she addressed the crowd one last time: “We’re both winners, thank you guys for the support, I love you so much. Thank you!”
Serena’s powerful baseline shots and 10 aces proved too much for the mistake-prone 38-year-old Venus in their sixth meeting at the US grand slam.
On Monday, Serena defeated Magda Linette and bested German player Carina Witthöft the next day. As for Venus, she was victorious over Svetlana Kuznetsova in her first-round match and beat Camila Giorgi on Wednesday.
Friday’s match marked the 16th time the sisters have played each other at Grand Slams. They first competed against each other professionally in the second round of the 1998 Australian Open.
The last time they faced each other in a Grand Slam tournament, Serena was pregnant with her daughter Alexis Olympia (who turns 1 on Saturday).
“The last time we played the Australian it was two against one,” Venus said ahead of Friday’s match, according to USA Today. “At least this time it’s going to [be] fair.”
Days before the latest Grand Slam match, Serena acknowledged that the game would be a “tough” one for her, according to The New York Times.
“Unfortunately and fortunately we have to play each other,” Serena continued. “We make each other better. We bring out the best when we play each other. It’s what we do. So, I think we’re used to it now.”
Venus and Serena Williams grew up playing together as children in California. They have competed head to head professionally for more than 20 years, having faced each other the first time in 1998 in the final of the Australian Open. Venus won in straight sets.
Venus said at her post-match press conference that her sister played so well on Friday she never got a chance to control the point.
“She didn’t win that match because I just rolled over. She played untouchable tennis,” Venus said. “Any shot that I hit great, she hit a greater shot.”
The match was the first between the two since Venus defeated Serena at Indian Wells, California in March at Serena’s first tournament back after taking time off to have a baby.
Serena, whose baby turns 1 on Saturday is seeking her seventh US Open and 24th grand slam title. If she achieves the latter, she will tie Margaret Court for the most grand slams in the open era.
The loss crushed Venus’ hopes of winning her third US Open and first since 2002. But her illustrious career includes five other grand slam titles, numerous doubles titles – playing with her sister – and holding the number one ranking.
Other players competing at the US Open expressed their interest in the match. Defending champion Sloane Stephens said she would watch while eating pink berry ice cream on the couch in her hotel room.
Last year’s runner-up Madison Keys said the Williams sisters matches “are always legendary,” and Novak Djokovic said he has the “utmost respect for both of them.”