Serena Williams is known as one of tennis’ all-time revenge players. If an opponent beats her, look out next time.
Just two weeks after losing to Greece’s Maria Sakkari in three sets on these same grounds in the Western Southern Open, Williams reversed the decision, also needing three taut sets to do so.
After dropping a second-set tiebreaker to Sakkari and falling behind an early break in the third, Williams rallied and marched into the US Open quarterfinals Monday with a 6-3, 6-7, 6-3 victory.
“Of course I thought about it, but ever so little,’’ Williams said when asked about the loss two weeks ago. “She was doing so well and being so aggressive I knew I had to do the same thing. I’ve gone a lot of three sets, so I’m not only match fit I’m fit fit.”
Williams did not get broken by the 15th-seeded Sakkari in the first two sets but fell behind 4-0 in the second-set tiebreaker as the athletic Greek righthander picked up her service-return game.
Though Williams rallied and fought off two set points at 6-4, she couldn’t get all the way through, forcing a third set. Two weeks ago, she folded in the third. Not this time, as her serve rose to 124 miles per hour.
The emotional Williams, who screamed after missing some tough-luck netcord points, was broken in the first game of the third set. Then, she bore down and posted two breaks of her own.
On serve at 4-3, Williams got up love-40 on Sakkari’s serve and pulled off the break to lead 5-3. She closed it out on her serve, winning match point, crushing one final crosscourt backhand.
Williams won 72 percent of her first serves and hit 12 aces. She’s now three victories away from tying Margaret Court for 24 Grand Slams.
That makes three American women in the Open quarterfinals as she joined Jen Brady and Shelby Rogers. Naomi Osaka is also through to the quarters but despite her U.S. residence, she’s goes by her Japanese/Haitian heritage.
American Sofia Kenin has a chance to join them Monday night as she plays in the Round of 16 against Elise Mertens.
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