US Open: Serena Williams scores hard-fought win to reach quarterfinals

Serena Williams had to dig deep to get past Maria Sakkari. Photo: Reuters

New York: Third seed Serena Williams advanced to the US Open quarterfinals after a gritty, tension-filled 6-3, 6-7(6), 6-3 win over Greece's Maria Sakkari on Monday.

Early nerves saw Serena start with a double fault, but the veteran then found her footing, playing strong defensive tennis to save all three break points against her in the first set.

Serena got the first break against Sakkari for a 4-2 lead before closing the set out with an ace.

The 23-time Grand Slam winner came up short in the second-set tie-break, however, with Serena's power serve abandoning her when she needed it most.

Sakkari, seeded 15, carried the momentum into the third set as she started the decider with a break.

But 38-year-old Serena again showed the battling instincts that have made her one of the all-time greats. She broke back to level for 2-2 as Sakkari's forehand started to misfire.

The six-time US Open champion, who fired off the tournament's fastest serve with a 124 mph ace during the third set, marked her 100th win on Arthur Ashe Stadium with a roar that could be heard all around the grounds.

Serena Williams
Serena makes a backhand return. Photo: AFP

"I just kept fighting," said Serena, who lost to Sakkari two weeks ago in the Western & Southern Open. "She was doing so well she was being so aggressive. I knew I needed to do the same thing."

Serena, who kept up the pace despite breathing heavily towards the end of the nearly 2-1/2-hour match, said her physical condition had improved since their previous meeting.

"I was able to compete longer. I was a little fatigued last time and had some cramps," she said. "I felt like she almost played better today. She's such a good competitor. So it was still... a really intense match."

Maria Sakkari
Maria Sakkari went down fighting. Photo: Reuters

It was Serena's second nail-biter of the tournament, after digging herself out of a one-set deficit to beat fellow American Sloane Stephens in the third round on Saturday.

She faces Bulgaria's Tsvetana Pironkova in the last eight.

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