With Serena Williams’ achievements this year, it’s easy to forget that she’s not the lone member of the family who has pocketed multiple grand slams.
There’s Venus, too.
Two years older than Serena at 35, Venus Williams hasn’t enjoyed the same late career surge as her younger sibling thanks in large part to autoimmune disorder Sjogren’s Syndrome.
But Venus, the winner of seven majors compared to Serena’s 21, still possesses the game – not to mention the belief – to compete with the elite and proved it again Friday in upsetting one of the most in-form players in all of tennis, Belinda Bencic, at the U.S. Open.
Bencic is one of only two players to beat Serena this year and carried a 10-match winning streak into the third-round contest in New York, not including a retirement loss to Lucie Safarova.
Further the 18-year-old Swiss saved match points in the second round against Misaki Doi, and those types of dramatic victories can significantly boost a player’s psyche.
Yet Venus overcame the 12th seed 6-3 6-4 on Arthur Ashe stadium on a fifth straight day of sapping heat, routinely pinning Bencic back with booming groundstrokes and finishing points at the net. Trailing by a break in the second didn’t faze Venus, who claimed the final five games to set up a clash with Anett Kontaveit.
And if, as expected, Venus advances, she will likely confront Serena for the second consecutive grand slam. Serena upended Venus at Wimbledon en route to completing the “Serena Slam” for a second time.
Many players will say they don’t look too far into draws, simply focusing on their next opponent. Not Venus.
She knew her little sister, who plays Bethanie Mattek-Sands in the night session, was looming.
“I have thought about it, and I would like us to have that moment so we can see how it is,” Venus, into the fourth round at the U.S. Open for the first time since 2010, told reporters. “We both have to get there. I think we both have a great opportunity to do so, but there are no givens. So the whole focus is, win your match one by one.”
Bencic, whose tennis career has been shaped by Melanie Molitor, the mother of Martina Hingis, said she performed better against Serena last month than on Friday.
“With Serena in Toronto I did better,” Bencic told reporters. “I could start the rallies and actually try to do something. Today just I couldn’t do it.”
Eugenie Bouchard’s revival continued, with the Canadian saving five set points in the first set and eventually eliminating Dominika Cibulkova in a 7-6 (9) 4-6 6-3 slugfest featuring two grand slam finalists from last year.
Marin Cilic, the defending men’s champion, remains a possibility for the quarterfinals but was severely tested by free-swinging Mikhail Kukushkin.
Kukushkin, fresh off a win over the slumping Grigor Dimitrov, led Cilic by a set and 5-2 before the Croatian prevailed 6-7 (5) 7-6 (1) 6-3 6-7 (3) 6-1 in more than four hours.
Perhaps fatigue played a part in the fifth, since Kukushkin went to five sets versus Dimitrov.
Novak Djokovic, the world No. 1, brushed aside Andreas Seppi 6-3 7-5 7-5 to record an 11th win – without defeat – against the Italian who stunned Roger Federer at the Australian Open this year. His next foe is Roberto Bautista Agut, the Spaniard benefiting from David Goffin’s retirement in the fourth set.
Goffin became the 14th player to quit at the U.S. Open this year.
France, meanwhile, is guaranteed a men’s quarterfinalist given that Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Benoit Paire face off in the round of 16. Paire, who downed 2014 finalist Kei Nishikori in the first round, had a surprisingly easy time against feisty Spaniard Tommy Robredo, 7-6 (3) 6-1 6-1, while Tsonga upended Sergiy Stakhovsky 6-3 7-5 6-2.