Ser­ena, Venus to clash for 30th time as Cor­net shrugs off US Open

The Nation - - SPORT -

SER­ENA and Venus Wil­liams set up a 30th ca­reer meet­ing yes­ter­day (Thai­land time) as the US Open reeled from a sex­ism row sparked when a player changed her shirt on court.

Six-time cham­pion Ser­ena eased into tonight’s third-round en­counter against her sis­ter with a 6-2 6-2 win over Ger­man world No 101 Ca­rina Wit­thoeft on the back of 30 win­ners and 13 aces.

Venus, the 2000 and 2001 cham­pion, made the third round for the 17th time with a 6-4 7-5 vic­tory over Camila Giorgi of Italy.

Tonight’s match will be the ear­li­est the sis­ters have met at a Slam since the 1998 Aus­tralian Open in what was also their first ever clash. It will be their sixth face­off in New York.

“Fri­day will be in­cred­i­bly hard,” said Ser­ena be­fore jok­ingly hit­ting back at Venus’s claim that when they last met at a Slam in the fi­nal of the 2017 Aus­tralian Open her sis­ter had an ad­van­tage as it was “two against one.”

That was a ref­er­ence to Ser­ena be­ing in the early stages of preg­nancy with her daugh­ter Olympia.

“I guess I had a lit­tle ad­van­tage but it’s go­ing to be hard for me on Fri­day,” said 36year-old Ser­ena.

Since Venus won their first ever clash in Aus­tralia, Ser­ena, bid­ding for a record­e­qualling 24th Grand Slam ti­tle, has built up an ad­van­tage over the last two decades, en­joy­ing a 17- 12 head-to-head su­pe­ri­or­ity.

“It’s a tough match to have so early in the tour­na­ment. We would have liked to have played later but it is what it is. It’s not the end of the world,” added Ser­ena.

De­fend­ing cham­pion and third seed Sloane Stephens also made the third round with a marathon three-set win over Ukraine qual­i­fier An­helina Kalin­ina.

She will next face two-time Aus­tralian Open cham­pion and for­mer world num­ber one Vic­to­ria Azarenka, who was among the first play­ers to con­demn the United States Ten­nis As­so­ci­a­tion (USTA) for hand­ing French player Al­ize Cor­net a code vi­o­la­tion for chang­ing her shirt on court the day be­fore.

The in­ci­dent sparked an im­me­di­ate storm over sex­ism.

The Be­laru­sian said the USTA dis­played dou­ble stan­dards for sanc­tion­ing Cor­net while male play­ers rou­tinely re­move their shirts court­side when the heat and hu­mid­ity bite.

“If I would say my true feel­ings, it would be bleeped out, be­cause it was ridicu­lous,” said Azarenka.

The USTA ad­mit­ted they were wrong to hand Cor­net a warn­ing for slip­ping off her shirt on court af­ter real­is­ing she had put the gar­ment on back-to-front dur­ing a heat-break.

Cor­net said she was stunned that the furore had caused so much con­tro­versy and was happy to ac­cept the USTA's apol­ogy.

“I think it's very fair from them to apol­o­gise. The um­pire was prob­a­bly over­whelmed by the sit­u­a­tion,” she said.

Nadal at top of his game

In the men’s draw, world No 1 and de­fend­ing cham­pion Rafael Nadal steamed into the third round with an easy win over Canada’s Vasek Pospisil.

The Spa­niard, spared the worst of the heat thanks to his late-night start, sped past Pospisil 6-3 6-4 6-2.

“The con­di­tions are tough,” said Nadal, who hap­pily changed top without fear of be­ing pun­ished by of­fi­cials.

“It was im­por­tant to start very well with that break. To win in straight sets is al­ways very pos­i­tive, es­pe­cially in these con­di­tions. It’s al­most mid­night, very happy about the vic­tory.”

Ex- cham­pi­ons Stan Wawrinka and Juan Martin del Potro also ad­vanced.

How­ever, 2012 win­ner Andy Mur­ray, like Wawrinka back at Flush­ing Mead­ows af­ter miss­ing last year through in­jury, was bounced by Fer­nando Ver­dasco of Spain.

Mur­ray, the 2012 US Open win­ner, who was play­ing his first Grand Slam in 14 months, is still fight­ing to find full fit­ness af­ter hip surgery in Jan­uary.

“Some of the ten­nis I played to­day was some of the best I’ve played since I came back,” said the Scot.

Rafael Nadal changes tops yes­ter­day – un­like fe­male play­ers, the men can do this without wor­ry­ing about of­fi­cials pun­ish­ing them.

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