US Open: Williams sisters post wins

Serena Williams was playing this year's surprise Wimbledon finalist Marion Bartoli of France.

updated: September 04, 2007 17:26 IST
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New York:

Serena Williams posted her easiest victory yet at this US Open, showing no ill effects from a lingering thumb injury to beat French No 10 Marion Bartoli 6-3, 6-4 on Sunday and reach the quarterfinals.

"I'm definitely better than I was in my first match," Williams said.

A few hours later, with her younger sister watching from a private box, Venus Williams kept the pressure on No 5 Ana Ivanovic and beat the Serbian teen 6-4, 6-2.

Through four rounds, the Williams sisters, both two-time US Open champs, have won every set. That kept them on track for a family reunion in the semifinals. "We have one more step," Venus said.

Seeded 12th, she frustrated Ivanovic and let the 19-year-old beat herself. Ivanovic won only two points at the net and missed several more. After putting a shot into the mesh, she kicked the ball over the net and later slammed her racket.

Next up, Venus will play No 3 Jelena Jankovic, who defeated No 19 Sybille Bammer 6-4, 4-6, 6-1, while for Serena, it's a familiar matchup. She will face No 1 Justine Henin in the quarterfinals at a third consecutive major, having lost to her at the French Open and Wimbledon.

"Yeah, we know each other pretty well," Henin said after beating No 15 Dinara Safina 6-0, 6-2 at night. "I know everyone was waiting for that match, and here we are."

Robredo out

The day's biggest surprise came in the final match, when 88th-ranked Ernests Gulbis of Latvia easily ousted No 8-seeded Tommy Robredo 6-1, 6-3, 6-2.

Gulbis, who turned 19 on Thursday and is the lowest-ranked man left in the draw, came to New York having lost in the first round at 10 of his 11 tournaments in 2007.

Men's matches Sunday were in the third round, and No 2 Rafael Nadal advanced without a hitch in his step - his taped-up knees have been bothering him - or his game, beating Jo-Wilfried Tsonga 7-6 (3), 6-2, 6-1.

Next up for Nadal is a fellow Spaniard, No. 15 David Ferrer, who was one point from defeat before coming back to eliminate 2002 Wimbledon finalist David Nalbandian 6-3, 3-6, 4-6, 7-6 (5), 7-5 in a match that included a 24-point game.

Nalbandian held a match point while ahead 5-4 in the fifth set with Ferrer serving. But the Argentine dumped a backhand into the net and didn't win another game.

"I couldn't nail it down," Nalbandian said. "It's a pity."

Winners included No 3 Novak Djokovic, No 17 Carlos Moya, No 20 Juan Ignacio Chela, No 23 Juan Monaco and unseeded Stanislas Wawrinka, who followed up his victory over Marat Safin by defeating Robby Ginepri of the United States 5-7, 6-4, 4-6, 6-4, 6-3.

Moya also won in five sets, edging Philipp Kohlschreiber 4-6, 7-5, 7-6 (5), 4-6, 6-4, while Djokovic got past Juan Martin del Potro 6-1, 6-3, 6-4 at night. "Hopefully I play even better the next round," Djokovic said.

The No 8-seeded Serena Williams has won every set through four rounds. Much stronger and faster than Bartoli, she fittingly finished off the Frenchwoman with back-to-back aces.

Williams had no problems with the chair umpire, either. In her last match, the two-time Open champion got reprimanded for reading from her pink notebook during the match.

"It's definitely OK. It's something I've done my whole career. I never got signals or any of that stuff," she said. "I'm always out there by myself and that helps me stay focused."

Even though Williams is an eight-time major champion, there were doubts about her going into the final Slam of the season.

She sprained her left thumb at Wimbledon, disabling her two-fisted backhand, and had not played since, prompting some to wonder how effective she'd be in this tournament. "A couple of weeks ago, I wasn't even sure if I'd be able to come here," she said.

Then again, maybe there was an omen. While recuperating, she wore a splint that kept her hand in the same position: thumbs up.

That's how it went for Williams at the Australian Open, too. Hurt for much of 2006, she went into Melbourne unseeded, then reeled off a strong run to win it. "She just elevates her game when she needs to," Bartoli said.

Williams will play the winner of the night match between No 1 Justine Henin and No 15 Dinara Safina. If it's Henin, it would be their third consecutive major quarterfinal meeting.

Bartoli had a breakthrough at Wimbledon, finishing as runner-up to Venus Williams, but has struggled to duplicate that success.

Physically overmatched, her best shot was to try to wear out Serena Williams with steady, deliberate returns. Using a two-handed grip from both sides, Bartoli is known for her unusual training methods, her father likes to hit multicolored, multisized balls at her in practice to sharpen her focus.

Williams, however, hit the same kind of ball at Bartoli all match. As in, really hard.

She held a 32-10 edge in winners and her fastest serve was 124 mph to Bartoli's 106. Williams also stayed in control, putting 81 per cent of her first serves in play.