NEW YORK           -       Third seed Serena Williams advanced to the U.S. Open quarter-finals after a gritty, tension-filled 6-3 6-7(6) 6-3 win over Greece’s Maria Sakkari. 

Early nerves saw Williams 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. Williams 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 tiebreak however, with Williams’ 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 Williams 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 U.S. 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. “I just kept fighting,” said Williams, 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.” 

Williams, 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. It was Williams’ 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. 

Victoria Azarenka had a huge smile on her face after reaching her first Grand Slam quarter-final in more than four years by beating Czech Karolina Muchova 5-7 6-1 6-4 in the fourth round of the U.S. Open. She had to rally from a set down on Louis Armstrong Stadium to set up a last eight date with Elise Mertens, her first at that stage of a major since she lost to Angelique Kerber at the 2016 Australian Open. 

Belgian Elise Mertens continued her strong run in 2020 by taking down American second seed Sofia Kenin 6-3 6-3 to reach the US Open last eight for the second straight year. Mertens, seeded 16th, played solid from the baseline and kept the errors to a minimum to defeat Australian Open champion Kenin for the first time in three career meetings. The victory was the 23rd of the year for Mertens — the most on the women’s circuit in 2020 — and she has yet to drop a set in her Flushing Meadows campaign. 

Meanwhile in men’s singles, Third seed Daniil Medvedev stormed into the quarter-finals with a dominant 6-4 6-1 6-0 win over a listless Frances Tiafoe. He will next face 10th seed Andrey Rublev. Tenth seed Andrey Rublev rallied from a set down to beat Italy’s Matteo Berrettini 4-6 6-3 6-3 6-3 to reach the quarter-finals. Rublev fired nine aces and 34 winners while winning an astonishing 85% of his first-serve points. 

Second seed Dominic Thiem was pushed in the opening set but recovered to beat 20-year-old Canadian Felix Auger Aliassime 7-6(4) 6-1 6-1 to move into the quarter-finals. Thiem, the highest seed in the draw after top seed Novak Djokovic was disqualified on Sunday, will next face another youngster in 21-year-old Australian Alex de Minaur. Australian 21st seed Alex de Minaur beat Canada’s Vasek Pospisil 7-6(6) 6-3 6-2 to reach his first Grand Slam quarter-final.