Williams followed familiar nemesis Maria Sakkari with a break early in the third set before turning the tables for a 6-3 6-7 (6) 6-3 win over Arthur Ashe Stadium to reach the quarter-finals of a Grand Slam for the 53rd time, tying Martina Navratilova for second place on the women’s all-time list.
The New York courts major was already missing by Djokovic’s two main rivals Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal, who stayed on the sidelines for various reasons. Federer is recovering from knee surgery while Nadal has raised concerns about the coronavirus and is preparing for the French Open.
In the women’s draw, the two top-ranked players, Ashleigh Barty and Simona Halep, skipped New York City due to coronavirus concerns.
But at Williams, the US Open has arguably the biggest star of them all and the 38-year-old remains in contention to claim a record tying 24th Grand Slam title.
Sakkari had beaten Williams in the Western & Southern Open warm-up in three sets. In this one too, she won a tiebreaker in the second set.
Sakkari took the lead in third
And when Greece’s top player led 2-0 in the decider, it looked like the 15th seed was on course to become the first player since Justine Henin in 2007 to gain the upper hand over Williams – excluding a retirement – in consecutive tournaments.
Williams, however, has won 23 majors for a reason.
His game resumed and the desire, as always, was there.
She broke for 2-2 and then again for 5-3. After forcing Sakkari to make a mistake on the match point, Williams let out a loud roar, which resonated even more since there are no fans at this year’s tournament due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Williams will face Tsvetana Pironkova or Alize Cornet in the last eight. Williams has a 4-0 record against Pironkova but Cornet has had better success, winning three of their seven matches.