Serena Williams folded, but she didn’t break up. The American struggled on Monday in the round of 16 of the US Open, but ended up beating the No. 15 seed Maria Sakkari in straight sets (6-3, 7-6, 6- 3) and almost two and a half hours of play (2h28 precisely). Abused at the start of the third set, she rebelled to reach the quarter-finals at Flushing Meadows for the 17th time in her career. She will face either Alizé Cornet or Tsvetana Pironkova.
She thought she was reliving the Cincinnati nightmare. Two weeks ago, Serena Williams had to surrender against Maria Sakkari (5-7, 7-6, 6-1) for their first clash on the circuit. And the same scenario seemed to emerge on Monday, when the Greek snatched the tie-break in the second set, before breaking from the start of the third. But the character and thanks to a new physique, the seed number 3 ended up reversing the trend.
On guard early in the game, Serena was the first to save break points at 2-2, 0/40. But Sakkari failed to seize his chance and was punished in the process. The American then kept her commitment to tackle the lead. The scenario had enough to free her, yet her opponent did not dive, quite the contrary. Ultra-solid on her commitment, the Greek did not concede a single break point in the second act.
And if she failed to convert her two opportunities to finish on the opposing service at 5-6, then missed two more set points in the tie-break, Sakkari’s perseverance paid off in her 5th opportunity. Very lively on the legs, able to keep pace with the bottom or even dominate the American, she pushed her advantage to the point of making the entry break of the last act.
But as the nail was hammered in, his arm trembled a little. Serena then regained her champion instinct to score 6 of the last 7 games, exploiting the opposing second balls perfectly. This is his second consecutive victory in three sets, proof that his body is handling the shock. Mentally, this difficult success should give her confidence for the future: she can always dream of a 24th Grand Slam title.