NEW YORK, United States – Serena and Venus Williams set up a 30th career meeting on Wednesday, August 29, as the US Open reeled from a sexism row sparked when a player changed her shirt on court.
Six-time champion Serena eased into Friday's third round encounter against her sister with a 6-2, 6-2 win over German world number 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.
Friday'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 face-off 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 36-year-old Serena.
Since Venus won their first ever clash in Australia, Serena, bidding for a record-equalling 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.
Venus, 38, and playing her 80th Slam, notched up her 775th career win by seeing off Giorgi.
However, she was reluctant to discuss Serena when asked to describe the specific challenges.
"You're beating it up now. Any other questions about anything else?" she barked.
Sushi and slushie
Defending champion and third seed Sloane Stephens also made the third round with a marathon 4-6, 7-5, 6-2 win over Ukraine qualifier Anhelina Kalinina.
Stephens triumphed after 2 hours and 46 minutes on Arthur Ashe Stadium and will next face two-time Australian Open champion and former world number one Victoria Azarenka.
The American needed treatment on a blistered right hand in the second set as the crushing effect of the heat and humidity took its toll.
However, the 10-minute heat-break between the second and third sets proved a timely boost.
"I just sat on the floor, changed my outfit, had two bites of sushi and a slushie," said the 25-year-old Stephens after seeing off world number 134 Kalinina.
Azarenka, the 2012 and 2013 runner-up, made the third round for the first time in three years with a 6-1, 6-2 win against Australian 25th seed Daria Gavrilova.
Azarenka was amongst 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 on Tuesday.
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 realizing she had put the garment on back-to-front during a heat-break.
Cornet said she was stunned that the furor had caused so much controversy and was happy to accept the USTA's apology.
"I think it's very fair from them to apologize to me. I think the umpire was probably overwhelmed by the situation," said Cornet who insisted that French tennis federation (FFT) president Bernard Giudicelli's Roland Garros ban on Serena Williams's catsuit was much worse and genuinely worthy of being deemed "sexist."
"The president of my federation lives in another time and can still do these kind of comments. They are totally shocking for me," she said.
"What Bernard Giudicelli said about Serena's cat suit was 10,000 times worse than what happened to me."
Ukrainian seventh seed Elina Svitolina cruised past Tatjana Maria 6-2, 6-3 to avenge a first round defeat at the hands of the German player at Wimbledon last month.
Estonia's Kaia Kanepi followed up her first round win over world number one Simona Halep by seeing off Jil Teichmann of Switzerland 6-4, 6-3.
However, ninth seeded Julia Goerges, a semi-finalist at Wimbledon, slumped to a 7-6 (12/10), 6-3 defeat to Ekaterina Makarova of Russia.
Wawrinka survives, Murray sent packing
Stan Wawrinka survived searing heat and a spirited Ugo Humbert to reach the third round as fellow former champion Andy Murray's return ended in the second round.
Wawrinka, unable to defend his 2016 Flushing Meadows title after undergoing two knee surgeries last year, said he wasn't surprised at the challenge produced by 139th-ranked Humbert, a left-hander who was playing his first tour-level event this week after a dominant summer on the developmental Challenger circuit.
"I knew it would be a difficult match," said Wawrinka, who was pleased to find himself feeling fit after prevailing 7-6 (7/5), 4-6, 6-3, 7-5 in three hours and 21 minutes.
"My level is there. I'm playing really good tennis," added the Swiss, who will face Canadian Milos Raonic for a place in the last 16. "I think there is a good chance that I'm playing better the next round."
Meanwhile 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.
He gave himself a mixed review after a 7-5, 2-6, 6-4, 6-4 loss to Spain's Fernando Verdasco, whose only win over Murray in 14 prior meetings was at the 2009 Australian Open.
"I think some of the tennis I played today was some of the best I've played since I had the surgery or since I came back," said Murray, who was irked to surrender the first set after holding a set point, but pleased to have enough in the tank to push Verdasco through five break points in the final game before the Spaniard converted his third match point.
"There were too many ups and downs for my liking," Murray said.
Verdasco certainly wasn't surprised by the "ups" and said even a limited Murray remained dangerous.
"He's an unbelievable player, so talented. You know no matter how much his hip hurts or whatever, he's going to fight and he's going to put all the balls he can in and run," Verdasco said after earning a third-round meeting with yet another former champion, third-seeded Juan Martin del Potro.
The Argentinian, whose career was nearly ended by wrist injuries after his 2009 US Open triumph, defeated American Denis Kudla 6-3, 6-1, 7-6 (7/4).
Del Potro was delighted to get through in three sets, and not spend too long in the steamy sunshine.
Murray said the shadows cast in the massive Arthur Ashe Stadium provided a slight respite from sweltering temperatures.
Organizers again implemented an extreme heat policy that allowed both men and women a 10-minute heat break in matches extended beyond straight sets.
World number one and defending champion Rafael Nadal was spared the worst of the conditions, although it was still muggy when he capped the Ashe Stadium action against Canadian Vasek Pospisil.
Stefanos Tsitsipas, the Greek 20-year-old who came in with high expectations after beating four top 10 players en route to the Toronto Masters final, said the heat took a mental as well as physical toll.
"You don't have fresh air to breathe – you breathe this heat that's coming, the moisture that's in the air. So you feel like you are empty," said the 15th-seed, who was undone by 64 unforced errors in a 6-4, 6-3, 4-6, 6-3 loss to Russian Daniil Medvedev.
Medvedev, who won his second ATP title of the season at Winston-Salem last week, booked a third-round meeting with 20th-seeded Croatian Borna Coric, a 7-6 (7/4), 6-2, 6-3 winner over Spain's Roberto Carballes Baena.
Fifth-seeded South African Kevin Anderson, runner-up to Nadal last year and a runner-up to Novak Djokovic at Wimbledon, made quick work of France's Jeremy Chardy, 6-2, 6-4, 6-4.
Anderson next faces rising Canadian star Denis Shapovalov, who labored to a 6-4, 4-6, 5-7, 7-6 (7/2), 6-4 victory over Italian Andreas Seppi.
Ninth-seeded Austrian Dominic Thiem, the French Open finalist whose US Open preparation was disrupted by injury and illness, advanced with a 6-7 (5/7), 6-3, 5-7, 6-4, 6-1 victory over American Steve Johnson.
He'll face another American, Taylor Fritz, who advanced 6-3, 3-6, 6-3 when Australian opponent Jason Kubler retired. – Rappler.com