Serena Williams Stops Kaia Kanepi and Reaches Quarterfinal Against Karolina Pliskova; Defending Champion Sloane Stephens back in Elite 8
(September 2, 2018) FLUSHING MEADOWS, NY – Six-time winner Serena Williams reached her 15th US Open quarterfinal on Sunday beating world No. 44 Kaia Kanepi 6-0, 4-6, 6-3. Kanepi, from Estonia knocked out No. 1 seed Simona Halep in the first round.
Serena Williams, the 17th seed but ranked 26th in the world, started off her match by breaking serve in the second game to take a 2-0 lead, extending it to 3-0, shutting her out 6-0. It was her 22nd bagel set in her career at the US Open. Williams hit 14 winners and made only two unforced errors.
The domination Serena had shown in the first set, left in the second. Kanepi broke serve to lead off the second set, with an additional break in the seventh game, going up 5-2, taking the set 6-4. It’s the first set that the Estonian had ever won off of Williams in their career head-to-head. It was the first set that Williams has lost in the tournament this year. He errors went from 2 in the first set to13 in the second.
Williams opened the third set protecting her serve in a long game and immediately broke Kanepi’s serve at 15. She held on to win the match from there 6-0, 4-6, 6-3.
Williams, the 23-time major champion, hit 47 winners, which included 18 aces.
Williams talked about what are the best parts about Pliskova’s game – “Obviously her serve. She has a really good forehand. In fact, she doesn’t do a lot of things bad. You know, obviously I think she was No. 1 last year, so she got there for a reason.
“Yeah, she has a lot of strong parts to her game.”
Last time they met in the US Open, was in 2016, the last time Williams played the tournament when Plsikova beat Williams in the quarterfinals.
Karolina Pliskova advanced to her eighth major quarterfinal on Sunday with a 6-4, 6-4 win over Ashleigh Barty in Louis Armstrong Stadium. The eighth seed was the top seed just a year ago. Ten of the top 13 women’s seeds have lost, most of them on Armstrong, including the top two seeds Simona Halep and Caroline Wozniacki, so she avoided the “jinx.” This will be her third straight major quarterfinal.
“Well, it looks easy, the score, for sure,” said the 2016 US Open finalist from the Czech Republic. “But we played hour and a half and was not easy at all.”
“She had a lot of break points, so it could go, I think, both ways today. It was really like couple points. I was just able, I think, to play much better on the big points. Especially the break points.
“Especially when she was serving, I was putting a lot of pressure on her second serve which I felt I was winning a lot of them.
“But anyway, I felt like she was maybe a little bit more aggressive. But I didn’t have that many chances because of her game, the slice, so I didn’t really feel like I have, you know, chance and time to be aggressive.
“That was my plan, just to, you know, stay in the rallies, hold her on backhand, and if I have a chance to attack and hold my serve, that’s what I did perfectly today.
“I didn’t lose my serve, so I’m pretty happy about that.”
Pliskova defeated Serena Williams in her run to the final in 2016. “It will be, for me, a dream to play again on Arthur Ashe, for sure, and to play Serena, because obviously last match we played, I won. Since then, we didn’t play. A lot of things happen between. That will be, I think, a match where I want to repeat on Arthur Ashe where we played in 2016.
“I really was feeling great that year. I’m feeling great now, too. But it was a little bit different story, 2016. I was, like, dark horse. Nobody was expecting me to get that far. But I just went on the court just to get the win, you know. So it was not for me just to go and enjoy or just to go and do some games against her.
“I know she was the best at that time, but I just wanted to win. So that’s why I won, because I believed I have a chance. I have a game to beat her. That’s what I would like to do if she’s there this time, too.
“Because anyway I know she has a big game, but I have a big game too. I have a good serve. So I have some weapons, too. So, for sure, there is always a chance for me.”
Defending champion Sloane Stephens is back in the quarterfinals, beating Belgium’s Elise Mertens in the round of 16 6-3, 6-3.
It’s deja vu for the third seeded American as she’ll meet Anastasija Sevastova in the elite 8, same as last year.
“I think it will be a good match,” said Stephens. “I played her in Montreal. We played a good match. Hoping to just get out there and kind of execute the same game plan. Obviously won’t be easy. Quarterfinals of a Grand Slam is always really tough. A big opportunity for both of us.
“Just excited to get out there and compete again. Obviously being defending champion, being able to get to the quarterfinals again, is incredible. I’m just going to try to keep building on that and keep going.”
“Like many players, Stephens has started a charitable foundation. “I started it because I love kids. I think tennis has given me a lot in my life. Given me a lot of opportunities to travel the world, see the world, free education through the WTA. I’ve been able to meet incredible people. Tennis has done a lot in my life.
“I think the opportunity to give back is very special. I love kids. I think my passion is definitely showing kids how to play tennis, spending time with them, making them see that you can grow up and be a professional tennis player, you can grow up and play on your high school team, go to college. I think that’s very important.
“My foundation has 23 schools that do after school tennis, Saturday tennis, recess tennis. I think it’s very important to be able to give back and show kids that nothing is impossible. Tennis is an amazing tool to be able to do stuff in your life. Like I said, whether it be your high school team, your junior college team, whatever it may be, just giving the kid the opportunity to see that you can get there. It’s really cool to me. It gives me something to do. When I leave the sport of tennis, I want to make sure I leave something behind, it won’t be just about me, me winning a US Open or Miami Open. I want it to be more of I gave someone an opportunity to make something of their life, do something bigger. To me that’s very important.”
Stephens is only one of the two top 8 seeds which still remain. The other is Pliskova.
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No. 19 Anastasija Sevastova reached her third straight US Open quarterfinal beating No. 7 seed Elina Svitolina, 6-3, 1-6, 6-0.
Sevastova was very happy with her third set score.
“It was one of the best third sets. Also I think first set was very competitive, very good, one of the best sets we played because she played the level like in the first set and I played the level. So we played in the same time very good level.
“But in the third, it was very important, I think, winning the first game. Just holding the serve 2-Love and feeling more free and playing.”
Svitolina, who has not won a major evaluated her Grand Slam season after the loss.
“I would say it’s average. I was expecting a little bit better results, especially, you know, Roland Garros and here, as well.
“But I lost to the players that were like playing really amazing tennis against me and was tough matches.
“So, yeah, it’s disappointing, but, you know, I have to look forward and, yeah, just go back on court and put the hours of work.”
Sevastova will meet the winner of the Sloane Stephens Elise Mertens match in the quarterfinals.