*It’s long been said that Serena Williams is most vulnerable during the early rounds of major tournaments. And that’s never been more evident than this 2014 tennis season; she never advanced past the 4th round of any major (including a wacky Wimbledon meltdown) … until today at the US Open.
Taking on Kaia Kanepi of Estonia in a 4th round match up, Serena, the 2-time defending champion, was finally able to break her Grand Slam quarterfinal drought by beating her deflated opponent 6-3, 6-2.
Kanepi, known for her powerful ground strokes, advanced to this stage of the tournament by saving match points in the third round when taking out Aussie Sam Stosur, who beat Serena for the championship title in 2011.
She had no such luck against the world no. 1 and the tournament’s no. 1 seed.
Serena started the match with her massive serve firing ( mostly above 110 mph unlike earlier in the week when it stayed mores in the 90s), holding for the 1st game. Kanepi was up next, but nerves from being on the big stage inside Ashe caused her to give up three service points, giving Serena a chance to break and grab the early momentum. Serena was a touch tentative on her returns and ground game, however, so she couldn’t convert and Kanepi held. Back on serve, Serena followed that up with an easy hold for 2-1. They traded holds for the next four games, but Serena was able to secure the break at 4-3 to go up 5-3. She relatively easily held and secured a set-ending break at 5-3 to take it 6-3.
Kanepi opened the second set by being broken in the first game for 0-1. But Serena botched and easy overhead on the first point and set the tone for losing her serve at love. Back level at 1 all, Kanepi felt compelled to return the favor and gave Serena the break right back for 2-1. The ladies each held for the next 2 games to reach 4-2, but Serena broke again to go up 5-2.
Now serving for the match, Serena let her nerves get the best of her. She let up on the gas and made a backhand error, then double faulted twice to lose the game and failed to close out the match. But as it is in tennis, it’s sometimes easier to break to close as the pressure is on the server who’s down in the set. Serena took advantage of that concept and broke Kanepi at 5-3 to excitedly advance in straight sets to the next round of the US Open while her doubles partner Venus Williams looked on from the stands.
In her on court interview after the win, she was jubilant over the results:
“I finally made it to a quarterfinal at a grand slam, yay!!” she emoted. “I kept telling myself, whatever happens here, at least I’m still in doubles.”
As it usually happens, she’s the last American left in the singles competition, men or women. *Taylor Townsend and Donald Young are still alive in mixed doubles.*
Looking to secure her 18th Slam title and 6th US Open, she’ll next meet Flavia Penetta of Italy, who she has a 5-0 head to head over. If she makes it through that match, she’ll meet either her most formidable rival Victoria Azarenka of Belarus and have a rematch of last year’s final or young Serbian qualifier, Aleksandra Kunic who’s vanquished two seeded players, Madison Keys and Petra Kvitova, on her way to the fourth round.
For complete results, click here.