Fri | Apr 19, 2019

Williams passes Kanepi test

Published:Monday | September 3, 2018 | 12:00 AM
Serena Williams serves to Kaia Kanepi, of Estonia, during the fourth round of the US Open tennis tournament in Flushing Meadows, New York yesterday.


Serena Williams' yells of "Come on!" were crescendoing right along with the tension in a fourth-round US Open match that began as a rout and suddenly became riveting.

When she ripped a backhand winner to claim the third set's opening game yesterday, Williams let out her loudest shout of the day, leaning forward and rocking both arms. This turned into a test, and she passed it.

Williams reached the quarter-finals at Flushing Meadows for a 10th consecutive appearance she was not there last year because she gave birth to her daughter during the tournament by picking her level up after a lull and using 18 aces to beat Kaia Kanepi of Estonia 6-0, 4-6, 6-3.

"It wasn't an easy match at all. She obviously knows how to play," Williams said. "I was just happy to get through it."


Big-hitting match


This was filled with big hitting by both women, along with all manner of shifts in momentum and quality of play. In the 18-minute shutout of the first set, Kanepi was tight, and Williams was pretty much perfect, grabbing 24 of 30 points.

But after compiling 14 winners and only two unforced errors in that set, Williams began making mistakes, less and less comfortable as Kanepi grew increasingly so. Kanepi is ranked only 44th, but she has been a top-20 player in the past and has made it to Grand Slam quarter-finals half a dozen times. Sure, that's nothing compared to Williams' 23 major titles, but it's something. Plus, it's worth remembering this: Kanepi eliminated No. 1 Simona Halep on Day 1 of this tournament.

In a blink, Williams had a match on her hands. Kanepi was matching Williams' power with booming groundstrokes of her own. She was getting better reads on Williams' serves. And the 36-year-old American began making more and more mistakes.

When Williams shanked a backhand return of a 103 mph serve, the match was a little more than an hour old, and it was all tied at a set apiece. That was the first set she had lost against Kanepi of the 10 they had played to that point and the first set Williams had lost at the 2018 US Open, including a 6-1, 6-2 victory over her older sister Venus on Friday night.