By Erik Gudris | Saturday, August 30, 2014
Serena Williams overcame a tough opponent and her own swirling emotions to reach the second week of a Grand Slam for the first time this year.
Photo Credit: AP
Serena Williams fought a tricky opponent, blustery conditions, and her own swirling emotions to reach the US Open fourth round. A milestone win for the top seed considering she has not made it past the first week of any Grand Slam this year.
"I can't believe I'm in the second week. It's like a dream come true for me at this point," Williams said with a smile later. When asked why she couldn't believe it, Williams replied, "I'm being sarcastic."
That Williams was able to smile was a good thing considering the tough match she just won. Facing her across the net in her third round was American Varvara Lepchenko. Considering that Lepchenko and Williams are frequent practice partners, that added an element of familiarity that both could count on. What Williams didn't perhaps count on was just how tough Lepchenko would make this match.
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In an odd twist, Lepchenko ended up hitting more winners than Williams in the first set. Williams though secured a break mid-way through and eventually closed it out 6-3.
The second set proved an even tougher test for the two-time defending champion. Lepchenko fought off going down an early break of serve in the opening game.
Williams, perhaps feeling even more pressure that usual to get back into the second week of a major, plus the fact that Lepchenko wasn't going away added to the drama. Williams often looked unsure and concerned as the match went on.
Both women engaged in several high quality rallies with Lepchenko often coming up the winner. That would exasperate Williams who by now felt she should have a lead. Serving at 2-3, Williams then had to fight off break points against her in a tense game that felt like it might go Lepchenko's way. Williams eventually held for 3-all and then got the important first break for 4-3.
Though Williams endured a few more touch and go moments where she appeared to fight her emotions, the top seed finally pulled herself together down the stretch.
After Lepchenko sent a final shot long on match point, a relieved Williams celebrated the 6-3, 6-3 win.
Being back in the second week of a major is a big step for Williams given her struggles this season. But she wants to do better than that. Williams aims to keep a positive attitude as she enters the second week that she hopes ends with yet another US Open title.
"Yeah, I've been positive. I got a little down on myself today. But lesson learned. Next round I'm just going to go in there and fight as hard as I can and leave everything on the court."