Reuters – Serena Williams survived a scare from giant-killer Kaia Kanepi to claim a rollercoaster 6-0 4-6 6-3 win on Sunday (September 2) and move into the U.S. Open quarter-finals, a step closer to a record-equalling 24th career Grand Slam title.
Following a shock upset of world number one Simona Halep in the first round, the 44th-ranked Kanepi had looked a potential trouble spot for the six-time U.S. Open champion. Any tension inside a packed Arthur Ashe Stadium, however, was quickly eased as a ruthless Williams stormed through the opening set in 18 minutes for the loss of a measly six points.
But in a bizarre twist in momentum, fans suddenly found themselves back on the edge of their seats as the Estonian opened the second with a break and broke Williams again to go up 5-2 before holding off a late rally from the 17th seed to level the match. Having collected her first set off of Williams in five career meetings, however, there would not be a second.
Just as quickly as the momentum had swung to Kanepi in the second set it returned to Williams in the third as normal service resumed with the 36-year-old American breaking her opponent at the first opportunity and jumping out to a 3-0 lead before cruising into the last eight. Top men’s seed Rafael Nadal set up an intriguing quarter-final showdown with Dominic Thiem after snuffing out a comeback attempt by Georgia’s Nikoloz Basilashvili with a 6-3 6-3 6-7(6) 6-4 win.
The world number one looked like he would cruise to an easy win after pocketing the first two sets but the Georgian stepped up his game to take the third set. The U.S. Open champion would not be denied and fired his seventh ace on match point to end the three hour, 20-minute tussle.
Ninth seed Dominic Thiem continued his bid for a first Grand Slam title, toppling last year’s runner-up Kevin Anderson 7-5 6-2 7-6(2) to reach the U.S. Open quarter-finals for the first time. Thiem, a finalist at this year’s French Open, neutralized the 6-foot-8 Anderson’s blistering serve by standing far beyond the baseline and he chased down everything the South African could throw at him.
The Austrian played a near flawless match, dropping just four points on his first serve and firing 42 winners.