Ser­ena Wil­liams emerges to set up show­down against Venus

Cape Breton Post - - SPORTS - LON­DON

Twice, Ser­ena Wil­liams stood merely two points from a loss at Wim­ble­don against a Bri­tish op­po­nent buoyed by a roar­ing, flag-wav­ing Cen­tre Court crowd.

Twice, Wil­liams was oh-so-close to the end of her bid for a fourth con­sec­u­tive ma­jor ti­tle _ and for the third leg of a cal­en­dar-year Grand Slam.

And twice, pushed to the precipice, Wil­liams re­grouped, re­sisted and wound up win­ning, as she so of­ten does.

Stomp­ing her foot af­ter misses, al­ter­nately scream­ing in de­light or de­spair, even wag­ging her fin­ger at fans who booed her, the No. 1-seeded Wil­liams over­came a sur­pris­ingly staunch chal­lenge from 59th-ranked Heather Wat­son and emerged with a 6-2, 4-6, 7-5 vic­tory in the third round Fri­day.

“I hon­estly didn’t think I was go­ing to win,’’ said Wil­liams, who trailed 3-0 and 5-4 in the fi­nal set. “How I pulled through, I re­ally don’t know.’’

Her 24th vic­tory in a row at Grand Slam tour­na­ments sets up a show­down Mon­day against another five-time Wim­ble­don cham­pion, her older sis­ter Venus.

“We’ve been fac­ing each other a long time,’’ said the 16thseeded Venus, who elim­i­nated 82nd-ranked Alek­san­dra Krunic of Ser­bia 6-3, 6-2.

This will be the 26th all-Wil­liams matchup, and first at a ma­jor since Ser­ena beat Venus in the 2009 Wim­ble­don fi­nal.

“It’s un­for­tu­nate that it’s so soon,’’ Ser­ena said.

Other women’s fourth-rounders Mon­day: 2004 cham­pion Maria Shara­pova vs. Za­rina Diyas; Vic­to­ria Azarenka vs. Belinda Ben­cic; and French Open run­ner-up Lu­cie Sa­farova vs. CoCo Vandeweghe of the U.S., who had never been this far at a ma­jor.

Men’s matchups: de­fend­ing cham­pion Novak Djokovic vs. Kevin An­der­son; French Open cham­pion Stan Wawrinka vs. David Gof­fin; Richard Gas­quet vs. Nick Kyr­gios.

De­nis Kudla, an Amer­i­can wild-card en­try, reached the sec­ond week at a ma­jor for the first time and awaits the win­ner of U.S. Open cham­pion Marin Cilic against Amer­i­can John Is­ner, whose match was sus­pended be­cause of dark­ness at 10-all in the fifth set. It harkened back to Is­ner’s record 70-68 fifth-set vic­tory spread over three days in 2010, but he and Cilic have a looooong way to go to equal that marathon.

Noth­ing in that match, or any other Fri­day, of­fered up the ten­sion and drama pro­vided by Wil­liams vs. Wat­son. Es­pe­cially once Wat­son _ play­ing steadily, if un­spec­tac­u­larly _ ap­peared on the verge of a sig­nif­i­cant up­set.

“She just did ev­ery­thing so well. I wasn’t able to keep up. You know, some­times you just don’t have your day,’’ said Wil­liams, who lost in the third round at Wim­ble­don last year. “I thought maybe to­day just wasn’t my day.’’

Sure looked that way when Wat­son took six straight games to go up two breaks in the third set. Then came an epic, 18-point game that be­gan Wil­liams’ come­back. Wat­son twice was a point from lead­ing 4-0, but she looked a bit tight, shank­ing a fore­hand about 5 feet long, then push­ing a fore­hand wide to get bro­ken.

Still, she broke Wil­liams at love for a 5-4 edge, mov­ing within a game of by far the big­gest vic­tory of her ca­reer.

At the en­su­ing changeover, Union Jacks of var­i­ous sizes flapped in the swirling wind while chants of “Heather!’’ re­ver­ber­ated through the nearly cen­tury-old arena. When play re­sumed, yells came dur­ing points, and Wil­liams com­plained to the chair um­pire, draw­ing jeers.

“It was re­ally in­tense to­day,’’ Wil­liams said. “I’ve never heard boos here.’’

At deuce, po­ten­tially two points from the end, Wil­liams pro­duced a fore­hand win­ner. Mo­ments later, again at deuce, again two points from de­feat, Wil­liams con­jured up another big fore­hand.

AP PHOTO

Ser­ena Wil­liams of the United States cel­e­brates af­ter win­ning a point against Heather Wat­son of Bri­tain dur­ing their sin­gles match at the All Eng­land Lawn Ten­nis Cham­pi­onships in Wim­ble­don, Lon­don, Fri­day.

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