Serena Williams on Friday turned her 30th career meeting with her sister Venus into a one-woman showcase, reaching the US Open fourth round with a 6-1, 6-2 victory.
Reluctantly rising to an occasion neither sister enjoys, Serena said she played her best match since she returned in March, after giving birth to her daughter, Olympia, on Sept. 1 last year.
“I played much better tonight than I have since I started this journey on my way back,” Serena said, although she was not sure she would agree with Venus’ assessment that it was the best match she had ever played against her.
Either way, the scoreline equaled Serena’s most lopsided victory over Venus and took her head-to-head record against her sister to 18-12.
“She played so well, I never got to really even touch any balls,” Venus said. “I don’t think I did a lot wrong, but she just did everything right.”
The most dramatic moment of the contest came when Serena rolled her right ankle in the second game. She took a medical timeout at the next changeover to have more tape added to the bandage she was already wearing, but there was no sign she was affected as she romped through seven straight games.
“It’s not easy,” Serena said of facing Venus. “She’s my best friend. She means the world to me. Every time she loses I feel like I do.”
Serena is next to face Kaia Kanepi of Estonia for a place in the quarter-finals.
Serena also weighed in on the discussion around former NFL players Colin Kaepernick and Eric Reid, saying “every athlete, every human” should be grateful for their stand on social issues.
The two former San Francisco 49ers were among the luminaries who turned out for the Williams sisters’ match and were cheered when they were shown on massive screens at Arthur Ashe Stadium.
Serena said she was too focused on the game to notice them, but added that she admired their willingness to use their public profiles to tackle issues of racial and social injustice.
“I think every athlete, every human and definitely every African American should be completely grateful and honored how Colin and Eric are doing so much more for the greater good, so to say,” she said. “They really use their platform in ways that is really unfathomable.”
Defending champion Sloane Stephens, at No. 3 the highest seed left in the draw, booked her fourth-round berth with a 6-3, 6-4 victory over Victoria Azarenka.
Stephens is to face 15th seed Belgian Elise Mertens for a place in the quarters after Mertens beat Czech Barbora Strycova 6-3, 7-6 (7/4).
In the doubles, Taiwan’s Hsieh Su-wei and Aryna Sabalenka of Belarus defeated Croatian Nina Stojanovic and Hungarian Fanny Stollar 6-4, 7-6 (7/5) in the round of 32, while Chan Hao-ching of Taiwan Chinese Yang Zhaoxuan fell to Americans Caroline Dolehide and Christina McHale 7-5, 2-6, 7-6 (7/5).
Taiwan’s Latisha Chan claimed a victory with partner Ivan Dodig of Croatia in the mixed doubles, downing Artem Sitak of New Zealand and Lyudmyla Kichenok of Ukraine 6-4, 3-6, 10-8.
In the men’s competition, world No. 1 and defending champion Rafael Nadal came back from a set and break down to defeat Karen Khachanov 5-7, 7-5, 7-6 (9/7), 7-6 (7/3) and reach the fourth round in an epic 4 hour, 23 minute struggle.
Victory for the 32-year-old put him into the last 16 in New York for the 10th time and on course to add to his titles from 2010, 2013 and last year.
However, 2009 champion and third seed Juan Martin del Potro, his potential semi-final opponent, also made the last 16 with a 7-5, 7-6 (8/6), 6-3 win over Fernando Verdasco.
Nadal is to face Georgia’s world No. 37 Nikoloz Basilashvili for a place in the quarter-finals.
Basilashvili reached the last 16 of a Slam for the first time by seeing off Argentina’s Guido Pella 6-3, 6-4, 1-6, 7-6 (7/4).
“Karen played well. He’s improving always. He’s young. He has everything. I really see him winning a lot of matches in his career,” Nadal said.
Del Potro is into the last 16 for the sixth time after seeing off Verdasco, the man who ended Andy Murray’s Grand Slam return in the previous round.
The giant Argentine is to next face Croatian 20th seed Borna Coric, who made the last 16 of a Slam for the first time with a 6-3, 7-5, 6-2 victory over Russia’s Daniil Medvedev.
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