The world is watching the US Open to see if Serena Williams can win her fourth straight title and in the process, complete the first calendar year Grand Slam since 1988.
One of the things we Serena fans know and worry about is that if she’s going to get upset, it’s going to happen early in the first week. Once she gets zoned in and gets over her early round nervousness, she’s tough to stop.
And in a US Open tournament that has seen ten seeded players exit the tournament in the first round, another in Russia’s Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova get beat in straight sets in the second round, and Maria Sharapova withdraw before the tournament even started because of a leg injury, Little Sis as the world’s number one ranked player and number one tournament seed is a prohibitive favorite to capture this final grand Slam tournament of the season.
Serena’s opponent in this second round match at Arthur Ashe Stadium was Kiki Bertens of the Netherlands, and in the first set Bertens gave an admittedly nervous Serena a stiff challenge that belied her number 110 world ranking.
Bertens promptly broke Serena’s serve, and was serving for the set at 5-4 before Serena came back to force a tiebreaker. Unfazed, the 23 year old Bertens sprinted to a 4-0 lead in the tiebreaker before Serena showed that heart of a champion once again, She rallied to tie it at 4-4 with some self destructive help from Bertens, and eventually won to steal the first set.
After that first set escape in which she had eight double faults, Serena took command of the match when she broke Bertens for a 3-2 lead and closed it out for the 7-6 (7-5) 6-3 straight set win.
Two match wins down, five to go for the calendar year Grand Slam.
Next up for Serena will be Bethanie Mattek-Sands, who knocked off Coco Vandeweghe in straight sets after she upset Sloane Stephens in the first round. In case you’re wondering what Serena’s record is against Mattek-Sands this year: 2-0
Meanwhile, Venus was playing fellow American Irina Falconi under the Arthur Ashe Stadium lights , and it looked like Big Sis was going to romp to victory in straight sets. But that disturbing tendency of Venus not closing out matches reared its ugly head again. Up 5-3 and serving for the match, it started going sideways for Big Sis as Falconi raised her game up another level, and broke Venus’ serve twice to force a tiebreaker, then kept her momentum going to take the second set.
The reason for the up and down performance? 35 winners offset by 47 unforced errors for Big Sis. She recorded six aces against five double faults.
Big Sis regrouped, got off to a fast start and rolled to a 4-1 lead before Falconi recovered to close to 4-2. After holding serve, she broke Falconi one last time to close out the match and get a hard fought 6-3. 6-7 (2-7) 6-2 win and punch her ticket to the third round.
She will face Switzerland’s Belinda Bencic, the 18 year old protege of Martina Hingis who was nearly ousted from the tournament by Misaki Doi of Japan in a drama filled three set match Venus will attempt to get past the third round of the US Open for the first time since 2010.
But the question is will the oldest player in the tournament field (35), have enough to get past the precocious 12th seeded Bencic, and get one step closer to a possible quarterfinal match with her sister for the second straight Grand Slam tournament?
And will Serena keep rolling to tennis history?