Serena Williams passed her toughest test thus far of the 2020 US Open. The 38-year-old faced Maria Sakkari in the fourth round in a rematch of the Greek’s remarkable win two weeks ago.
Serena started out strong behind her savage serve, but like the last meeting she couldn’t finish the job in the second. Sakkari started to connect on her serve and got her groundies going. She won the breaker then got up a break in the third 2-0.
A Serena winner followed by a screen immediately changed the momentum and the 23-time Grand Slam champion ran off six of the last seven games for a 6-3, 6-7(6), 6-3 in in 2 hours, 28 minutes.
“I thought about it, but ever so little,” Serena said referring to her loss to Sakkari last month. “But it’s a completely different match and a completely different scenario, a completely different moment. I kept fighting.
“She was doing so well, she was being so aggressive, and I knew I needed to do the same thing.”
Serena earns her 100th career match victory on Arthur Ashe court and marks her 53rd career Grand Slam quarterfinal.
Up next will be fellow mother Tsvetana Pironkovia who continued her surprising run edging the tricky Alize Cornet by nearly the same scoreline, 6-4, 6-7(5), 6-3.
The 32-year-old Bulgarian missed over three years for the birth of her child in March of 2018. In her very first event since 2017 Wimbledon, she’s now in the quarterfinals playing some of the best tennis of her career.
“At this point it means a lot to be here after three years of absence,” Pironkova said. “And this being my first tournament, having this great result, is something very special.
“And obviously US Open holds a special place in my heart. I have played good here before. I reached last 16, I’m not sure, 2013 maybe.
“All the slams are very special for all the players, I believe. Obviously Wimbledon is one of my favorite slams, as I did very well there, as well. There is something about it in the atmosphere, in the surface, on the smell of the grass, wearing all white, and all the traditions just kind of make it special.”
Serena has won all four meetings with Pironkova.
Elise Mertens continued her strong play in this restart stunning No. 2 seed Sofia Kenin 6-3, 6-3. Mertens stayed steady and Kenin sprayed errors putting the Belgian into her second straight US Open quarterfinals.
“I felt pretty focused today,” said Mertens. “I was just very focused on my game, not too much on her game. She can hit those balls, very short cross-court angles.
“I think I was just mentally prepared for a battle. I think my first serve went pretty well. I think that was the advantage of my game, that I could start with the positive note.”
Mertens will meet the resurgent Victoria Azarenka. The former No. 1 won her ninth straight match easing past Karolina Muchova 5-7, 6-1, 6-4. The Czech needed some treatment after the first and Azarenka, a 2-time US Open finalist, took advantage.
Azarenka reaches her first US Open quarterfinal since 2015.
Tomorrow, the quarterfinals kick-off with American upset queens Shelby Rogers and Jennifer Brady back in action. The hot-handed Brady battles Yulia Putintseva during the day. Then at night, Rogers faces former champion Naomi Osaka.
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