Serena Williams staged another dramatic fightback to beat American wild card Bethanie Mattek-Sands at the US Open and keep her calendar grand-slam dream alive.
Williams had come from a set down to win seven times in major tournaments this year and she added another escape to her list as the 21-time major champion battled through 3-6 ,7-5, 6-0.
The world No1 will face another American, Madison Keys, in the last 16 and she now stands four victories away from becoming the first player since 1988 to hold all four major titles in a single year.
“I’m not trying to live on the edge,” Williams said. “Players come out really strong. I didn’t come out too slow, I just think Bethanie came out well. I had to adapt to her game and was finally able to get some rhythm going towards the end of the second set.”
Mattek-Sands has never gone past the fourth round of a grand slam but she has enjoyed success in doubles, winning both the Australian and French Open titles this year, and she outfoxed Williams early on with her touch and craft.
With her long black socks, tattooed arms and orange dyed hair, Mattek-Sands appeared a player not overawed by the spotlight and she exploded out of the blocks under the lights of Arthur Ashe. Surviving a break point in the opening game, the world No101 made an early statement of intent on the Williams serve as she slammed down a return winner on the very first point.
Following her second-round win, Williams headed straight for the practice courts to fix her wobbling serve but she produced a double fault on the second point as Mattek-Sands broke and held for an early 3-0 lead.
Williams was wasteful, hitting 14 errors to her opponent’s one during a chaotic opening set, which Mattek-Sands served out at 5-3 after saving three break points. For nine games it had been a masterclass in variety from Mattek-Sands, who had Williams grinning in disbelief when another drop-shot-lob combination proved too cute for her to retrieve.
Williams, however, was starting to find her groove and despite giving Mattek-Sands hope with a break back at 5-3, two clattering returns helped her break again at 6-5 to clinch the set and level up.
Mattek-Sands’ resistance had been sustained and gutsy but it evaporated in the decider as Williams rolled through the gears to race into a 5-0 lead in just 21 minutes. A scintillating passing shot, which finished with Williams sprawled out doing the splits, added a final flourish as the defending champion progressed with a 24th consecutive US Open win.
Press Association in New York