Serena Williams took a little longer than expected to top Kaiai Kanepi after sweeping the Estonian in the first set of their Round of 16 matchup, but Williams still held on to win 6-0, 4-6, 6-3 and reach the U.S. Open quarterfinals on Sunday.
It took Williams only 18 minutes to hang a donut on Kanepi in the first set, but Kanepi showed new life with a first-game break of Williams to open the second set. The two exchanged breaks later in the second set, enough for Kanepi to take the match to the third set.
The match was easily Williams’ most competitive in her first U.S. Open since her return to tennis after having her first child, and she let the crowd know it with a few screams after some key points.
— US Open Tennis (@usopen) September 2, 2018
The match was the first time in Williams’ career in which she was taken to three sets after winning the first 6-0, so credit to Kanepi for managing to push the legend to a third set after a discouraging start. The unseeded Estonian had already made headlines in the first round of the tournament by upsetting top seed Simona Halep, the first player in U.S. Open history to upset the top seed in the first round.
“It wasn’t an easy match at all, Williams said after the match. “She’s had a lot of big wins in her career …. I was just happy to get through it to be honest.”
Williams will move on to play No. 8 seed Karolina Pliskova in the quarterfinals. The 17th-seeded Williams has seen Pliskova before at the U.S. Open, falling to the Czech player 2-6, 6-7 in the 2016 semifinals.
The 36-year-old is seeking her first Grand Slam title since the 2017 Australian Open and her 24th Grand Slam singles title overall, which would tie Margaret Court for the most Grand Slam singles titles in tennis history. Another title in New York City would also give Williams her 40th Grand Slam title overall between singles, doubles and mixed doubles.
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