Serena Williams moved into the quarterfinals of the U.S. Open after shaking off a tough fourth-round challenge Sunday in New York.
The 17th-seeded American defeated unseeded Estonian Kaia Kanepi 6-0, 4-6, 6-3 in a match that lasted 99 minutes – even though Williams took the opening set in 19 minutes.
“It wasn’t an easy match at all,” Williams said. “(Kanepi has) had a lot of big wins in her career. I was just happy to get through it to be honest.”
Williams, 36, was one year and one day removed from giving birth to a daughter. Since returning to the tour this year, she reached the fourth round at the French Open and the final at Wimbledon.
Kanepi, a 33-year-old veteran ranked 44th in the world, reached the quarterfinals at the U.S. Open last year, matching her best career Grand Slam result.
Williams finished with an 18-4 edge in aces. The key was the American converting five of seven break-point opportunities. Kanepi broke Williams’ serve twice in three chances.
Williams’ quarterfinal opponent will be Karolina Pliskova. The eighth-seeded Czech player defeated 18th-seeded Ashleigh Barty of Australia 6-4, 6-4.
Two years ago, Pliskova upset Williams in the U.S. Open semifinals before losing to Germany’s Angelique Kerber in the final. That was Pliskova’s lone appearance in a Grand Slam title match.
“I really was feeling great that year. I’m feeling great now, too,” Pliskova said. “But it was a little bit different story, 2016. I was, like, a dark horse. Nobody was expecting me to get that far.
“I know she was the best at that time, but I just wanted to win. So that’s why I won, because I believed I have a chance. I have a game to beat her.”
Pliskova shook off all eight break points on her serve while breaking Barty on both of her opportunities.
Latvia’s Anastasija Sevastova, the 19th seed, posted an up-and-down, 6-3, 1-6, 6-0 victory over seventh-seeded Elina Svitolina of Ukraine.
Sevastova produced a 30-12 edge in winners while also committing fewer unforced errors, 28-27.
Next up for Sevastova is a quarterfinal matchup with either defending champion Sloane Stephens of the United States, the third seed, or 15th-seeded Elise Mertens of Belgium. Stephens and Mertens face off later Sunday night.