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By Richard Pagliaro | Thursday, August 15, 2019


Down a set, Venus Williams made a coffee call then charged past Donna Vekic, 2-6, 6-3, 6-3, into her fourth quarterfinal of the season in Cincinnati.

Photo credit: Western & Southern Open Facebook

Advancing age and the ravages of 1,034 career singles matches have conspired to sap some sting from Venus Williams' vaunted serve.

The 39-year-old veteran's deep desire, closing power and taste for a timely cup of coffee remain undiminished.

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After surrendering the first set, Williams refueled with a coffee request charging through four of the last five games vanquishing Donna Vekic, 2-6, 6-3, 6-3, to rally into her fourth quarterfinal of the season at the Western & Southern Open.

"I'm pretty pumped," Williams told the media in Cincinnati. "When you're winning, it's fun. When you're losing, it sucks. I'm happy to be winning. Trying to prevent the losses."

The four-time Olympic gold medalist credited the crowd, which included sister Serena watching from the player box, for fueling her comeback. 

"Well, the crowd was behind me: thank you guys," Williams said in her on-court interview with ESPN's Brad Gilbert. "And my sisters were here and I wanted to impress them. Serena doesn't come to my match that often so I wanted to make sure it was a win—it was extra motivation."

Staying power has long been a Williams trademark. She raised her three-set record to 7-2 on the season.

On a searing day, Williams stretched the court forcing the 26th-ranked Croatian to counter from running positions in the decisive set.

The seven-time Grand Slam champion broke Vekic three times in her final five service games. Williams broke for a 3-2 lead then backed up the break with an authoritative love hold.

One final break closed the victory.

A reeling Williams arrived in Cincinnati mired in a four-match losing streaks as whispers swirled she'd traded her once explosive first serves for two second serves. 

Moving with purpose, Williams scored her third win of this week a day after she toppled defending champion Kiki Bertens, 6-3, 3-6, 7-6 (4) in a thriller. Her second straight Top 30 win infuses the world No. 62 with what she needs: more confidence and match play before the start of this month's US Open.

"It's hot out here; they play me every day at one o'clock," Williams said. "I'm surprised we all haven't fallen out and came back refreshed so you guys take care of yourselves. It's not easy for the players either, but we try to give you our best...  

"(The win over Bertens) was only the second round; tough draw for both of us. Today was a completely different player. She was equally tough. There's no easy matches out there. I cannot emphasize that enough. This is exactly what I wanted—all these matches before the Openso it's perfect preparation."

Continuing her quest for her 50th career championship, Williams will play either Wimbledon champion Simona Halep, who swept sister Serena in The Championships final, or compatriot Madison Keys, who started playing tennis after being inspired watching Venus play on TV.

Earlier, reigning Roland Garros champion Ash Barty rallied from 3-5 down in the decider defeating Anett Kontaveit, 4-6, 7-5, 7-5, to reach her seventh quarterfinal of the season.

The top-seeded Aussie broke when Kontaveit served for the match at 5-4. The Miami Open champion raised her record to 41-7 on the season, including a 22-4 mark on hard courts.

"I think today I certainly had some challenges," Barty said. "My tennis probably wasn't at its best level but proud of the way we were able to fight and hang in and kind of make a match of it at times when I probably didn't deserve to be able to stay in the match.

"I think that's the best thing is to just fight and hang around as best that I could. And towards the end, I started to find a little bit more rhythm but certainly struggled early on. It was more about the fight today than the tennis."

The second-ranked Barty, who can regain world No. 1 by reaching the final, will face Maria Sakkari for a final four spot.

Sakkari squeezed out a 6-7(4), 6-4, 6-4 win over ninth-seeded Aryna Sabalenka after defeating sixth-seeded Petra Kvitova yesterday. Barty is looking forward to facing buddy Sakkari tomorrow.

"Maria is an incredible chick," Barty said. "She's really one of my better friends on tour. She's a lovely girl. I don't think you can find anyone in the locker room that has a bad word to say about her. She's genuinely a humble, hard-working person. I think when people like that work hard, they're rewarded. This year she has been rewarded with some fantastic results. I have had some incredible matches with her in the past.

"I think these conditions suit Maria when she can use her kick serve, use her forehand when she has time. I think that's the challenge for me tomorrow, is to go out there and try and nullify that serve as best that I can and try and be on top of some points."


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