The 23-time grand slam champion eased through a fourth-round meeting with Petra Marti to reach the US Open quarter-finals for a 16th time
Serena Williams eased through a potentially tricky US Open fourth-round meeting with Petra Martic with a 6-3, 6-4 win to remain on course for a record-tying 24th major championship on Sunday afternoon, two years to the day she gave birth to her daughter.
The eighth-seeded American won nearly 80% of her first-serve points, hit twice as many winners (38) as unforced errors (19), faced only three break points and overcame an second-set injury scare over 92 minutes of baseline war with the big-serving Croat, advancing to the quarter-finals at Flushing Meadows for the 16th time in her career and 11th straight in as many appearances.
A nervy start on both ends saw Williams then Martic broken in their opening service games before trading holds deep into the set. Then in the eighth game Williams hit a couple of screaming forehand crosscourt winners on Martics serve followed by a punishing backhand winner from the baseline to break the No 22 seed, consolidating it with a hold from love-30 and 15-40 down to take the opening set the last break points shed face on the day.
With Martic serving at 2-3, 15-30 in the second, Williams rolled her ankle on a net approach and took a nasty spill to the cement, making an advance call for the trainer after gingerly making it to her feet. She managed to win the next two points, sealing the first break of the set with a clean volley winner that wrong-footed Martic, before receiving treatment during a three-minute medical timeout.
But unlike her shock Australian Open loss to Karolna Plkov when her game went to pieces after an ankle injury holding match point at 5-1, 40-30 lead in the deciding set, Williams landed the plane on Sunday in drama-free fashion. Serving at 3-4, Martic fought off four break points but Williams converted the fifth with a deft forehand volley winner at the net for a double-break advantage. Seven minutes later, the American painted the center service line with a 118mph ace on match point her fastest of the afternoon and raised both arms skyward in triumph amid roars from the Arthur Ashe Stadium crowd.
I usually know if its horrible early on, Williams said of the injury. I had a really bad ankle sprain in January. I was like, instantly, No, this cant happen. Im finally healthy. But Ill see tomorrow. So far Im good.
She added: I feel fine right now physically, and obviously my state is super intense. Im always incredibly intense. Just trying to keep moving forward.
The six-time US Open champion advances to a quarter-final clash on Tuesday with Chinas Qiang Wang, who shocked No 2 seed Ashleigh Barty in straight sets earlier on Sunday. She was soon joined by the third-seeded Pliskova, who went down to Jo Konta in a three-set thriller. Both top seeds are on Williams half of the draw, but the prospect of a clearer path to a 10th final here failed to move the needle.
I cant afford to look at it that way, Williams said. Every single match I have played, people come and they plan their best. The women that I play are not generally playing at this level against other players in the locker room, so for me, I have to be the greatest whether its against the second seed, the No 1 seed, or the 80th player in the world. I have to show up or else Im going to go home.