NEW YORK, September 1, 2018 (by Michael Dickens)
It is said that tennis, like life, sometimes runs in cycles. For the moment, as it was plainly evident to all watching inside an electric Arthur Ashe Stadium at the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center Friday night, it was Serena Williams’ time to shine brightest on the largest tennis stage in the world.
Serena beat her older sister, Venus Williams, 6-1, 6-2, in just 71 mostly-subdued minutes. It became apparent early on that Serena knew she needed to come out with her best game to win. She attacked from the start – breaking Venus four times in 10 opportunities – kept her unforced errors (22) to a manageable minimum, hit 34 winners and relied on her powerful serve, which produced 10 aces and an 88-percent success in points won on her first serve. On the opposite side of the net, Venus mustered just one service ace and 14 winners while committing 18 unforced errors.
Without a doubt, Serena played the best match since her return from maternity leave and now finds herself advancing to the fourth round of the U.S. Open for the 17th time. “This was my best match since I returned,” she said during an on-court interview after the match. “I worked for it. I worked really hard these last three or four months.”
Although the two sisters – competitors on this night – shared a warm embrace at the net, it’s always an awkward moment because there has to be a winner and a loser, despite Serena saying afterwards “We’re both winners.”
Serena’s victory was her 18th over Venus in 30 career head-to-head meetings and sixth at the U.S. Open. She now has beaten Venus in 11 of their 16 Grand Slam matchups.
Serena, who has won 23 Grand Slam singles titles, praised her sister, saying of Venus, “She’s the reason I’m here. She’s the only reason I’m still out here.” Serena was also asked what she thought her father, Richard, was thinking of the match. She said, “I hope my dad didn’t watch. I mean it’s his two daughters playing each other; it’s not easy. I know he’s probably feeling as nervous as we did. Hi dad, I love you.”
Perhaps, afterward, it was not so much a moment to celebrate as it was to feel relieved. Serena dominated from the start – and will play on – while Venus had no answers.
Williams to face Kanepi in round of 16
Serena Williams will face two-time U.S. Open quarterfinalist Kaia Kanepi of Estonia, ranked 44th, in the round of 16 on Sunday. Kanepi, who took out World No. 1 and top seed Simona Halep in the first round on Monday, defeated 61st-ranked Rebecca Peterson of Sweden, 6-3, 7-6 (3) on Court 17 Friday afternoon. She has yet to lose a set in three matches played.
“I’m really happy to get through today,” said Kanepi. “I think I played better in the first two matches. Today, I felt a bit tight with my shots – I don’t know why – and didn’t feel that comfortable. I tried to focus on a few things and just fight.”
Kanepi, 33, who is the first unseeded player to reach the last 16 at this year’s U.S. Open, is winless in her career against Serena Williams, with an 0-4 head-to-head record.
“I just have to play as I do, and I can’t really change much, and hope to play really well. I have experience, and I know what to expect, so that’s good, but I think every match is different and every day is different, so we will see.”
Anderson outlasts Shapovalov in five sets
No. 5 seed Kevin Anderson of South Africa, the 2017 U.S. Open finalist, went the distance to beat Canadian teenager and No. 28 seed Denis Shapovalov, 4-6, 6-3, 6-4, 4-6, 6-4, in the first match under the roof of Louis Armstrong Stadium.
The third-round encounter lasted three hours and 42 minutes and ended at almost the same time as the Rafael Nadal-Karen Khachanov match next door in Arthur Ashe Stadium was concluding to finish Friday’s day session.
Just a few points determined the outcome in each set with Anderson, who has reached at least the fourth round at all four Grand Slams, taking advantage the most of his opportunities. He finished with 11 aces, won 77 points on his first serve, hit 31 winners and withstood the onslaught of Shapovalov’s 59 winners.
Anderson, 32, will face No. 9 seed Dominic Thiem in the fourth round on Sunday.
Raonic sharp in beating Wawrinka
After No. 25 seed Milos Raonic of Canada beat 2016 U.S. Open champion Stan Wawrinka, 7-6 (6), 6-4, 6-3, to open the night session on Louis Armstrong Stadium, he said during an on-court interview that “the first set gave me something to believe in.”
Raonic crafted one of his best performances this summer, finishing with 14 aces and 43 winners. He won 46 of 97 total points on his first serve and he was dominating at the net, too. He faced just one break point which he saved.
“I’m moving well. If I can get in good position, I can hit the ball well,” said Raonic. “I try to be aggressive and to dictate points. I’m getting better at that.”
The loss snapped the 101st-ranked Wawrinka’s nine-match U.S. Open winning streak dating back to his 2016 championship success. Meanwhile, the victory moved Raonic into the round of 16 for the first time since 2014. His next opponent will be John Isner of the United States, who won his third consecutive match he’s played on the Grandstand this week. The No. 11 seed defeated 62nd-ranked Dusan Lajovic of Serbia, 7-6 (8), 6-7 (6), 6-3, 7-5, in three hours and 26 minutes. The 6-foot-10 Isner fired 34 aces and hit 85 winners to offset his 47 unforced errors. It was Isner’s second straight match of more than three hours.
Svitolina, Barty, Sevastova advance
No. 7 seed Elina Svitolina of Ukraine, No. 18 Ash Barty of Australia and No. 19 Anastasija Sevastova of Latvia all advanced to the women’s round of 16 with wins on Friday. Svitolina has dropped just one set in three matches and she beat Qiana Wang of China, ranked 52nd, 6-4, 6-4 in just 69 minutes. Barty took out 202nd-ranked qualifier Karolina Muchova of the Czech Republic, 6-3, 6-4, and Sevastova came back from a set down to beat 45th-ranked Ekaterina Makarova of Russia, 4-6, 6-1, 6-2.
• Also advancing to the men’s round of 16 was No. 20 seed Borna Coric of Croatia, who beat 36th-ranked Daniil Medvedev of Russia, 6-3, 7-5, 6-2. It was Coric’s third win over the Russian in four meetings. The loss broke Medvedev’s eight-match winning streak.
• A total of 35 different countries were represented in the women’s singles main draw at this year’s U.S. Open, led by the United States with 23 players, followed by Russia (12) and the Czech Republic (12).
• This is the first time since 2013 Roland Garros that no British player – male or female – has advanced to the third round of a major.
• With both No. 1 Simona Halep and No. 2 Caroline Wozniacki eliminated from the women’s draw before the third round, it marked the first time in the Open Era at the U.S. Open this has happened. The most recent occurrence at a Grand Slam came in the 2014 Roland Garros.
What they’re saying
• New York Times tennis columnist Christopher Clarey on “Venus vs. Serena, Round 30”: “It remains both a blessing a curse that Venus and Serena Williams grew up in the same household with the same Technicolor dreams. A blessing because they have always had each other for support and inspiration as a seemingly outlandish plan by their father, Richard, to make them the best players in the world turned into reality. A curse because they knew, even as preteens, that they would eventually have to face each other with cameras rolling and mixed emotions surfacing. But not even Richard Williams, with his ability to think big, could have imaged that his daughters would square off 30 times over more than 20 years.”
• ESPN analyst John McEnroe commenting on Rafa Nadal after his 4 hour, 23 minute, four-set win Friday over Karen Khachanov: “I think that anyone who aspires to be a professional tennis player – or for that matter players who are on the pro tour – should take a look at this guy … you see a guy who is using his mind and his body to its full effect and no doubt gives it everything he has. It’s not that he just tries hard. He throws so many different things at you. At critical times, he comes up with the goods and steps it up when he has to. I don’t know how you can intensify the effort he gives, but he somehow does it.”
• Tennis Channel analyst Jim Courier on Roger Federer’s coach Sverin Luthi: “He reminds me of Charlie Watts of The Rolling Stones, sitting in the back, quietly keeping beat while the great Roger is Mick Jagger strutting out in front.”