On the day her sister went into labour, Venus Williams could well be forgiven for being a little distracted.
While she was on court, it was reported she had become an aunt as Serena, 35, gave birth to a baby girl weighing in at 6 pounds, 13 ounces, with father and fiancé Alexis Ohanian present.
According to multiple reports, Serena delivered her first child on Friday at St. Mary’s Medical Center in West Palm Beach, Florida.
Obviously I’m super excited. Words can’t describe Venus Williams
Heading on to court, Venus was asked about coming an aunt and she replied: ‘Obviously I’m super excited. Words can’t describe.’
Venus is a two-time US Open champion, having won in 2000 and 2001, and is now 37, the oldest player in the women’s draw, but the 9th seed is competing in her 19th appearance at Flushing Meadows with a level of energy, intensity and focus that makes age apparently irrelevant.
Her recent success is all the more impressive since she is managing the often debilitating effects of Sjögrens Syndrome.
“With the amount of tournaments and the amount of training and also knowing how to push your body — and trust me, I’ve pushed my body a lot,” she told health.com.
“But you have to know when to say when, too. And also, it’s very draining mentally to keep this level up, so I also like to take mental breaks.”
To keep herself mentally healthy, she does things she enjoys, like spending time with friends and family, dancing, and tennis.
When it comes to her physical health, she gets at least eight hours of sleep a night before tournaments.
“You don’t want to just give away a match because you just couldn’t find a way to go to bed,” she said, adding she eats ‘a ton more’ during competitions.
Looking fresh and not a year over 30, Williams faced Maria Sakkari, the daughter of former Greek tennis champion Angeliki Kanelopoulou, who was appearing in the third round of a major for the third time this year, reaching this same point at both the Australian Open and Wimbledon.
Sakkari, 22, had already taken out Kiki Bertens, the 24th seed from Belgium, in the first round, but she needed to dig deeper to uproot Williams, who beat the Greek in their only career meeting, a second-round encounter at Wimbledon in 2016 that took three sets, in all 31 games, to decide.
Williams is a seven-time Grand Slam singles champion, however, and although she may be giving away 15 years to her opponent, remained the firm favourite to progress to round four.
While she wasn’t at her best and had a bad service day, the two-time women’s champion advanced with a straight-sets, 6-3 6-4 win over the talented Greek.
The American managed the only break in the opening set to take control of the match.
After a couple of exchanges of breaks in the second, Williams stole her opponent’s serve again to close it out on the first match point when Sakkari’s forehand sailed long.
Despite struggling with her serve throughout – so much so that she dropped a game in the second set via four double faults – she won through at the last in an hour and 15 minutes, Sakkari failing to capitalise on the Williams weaknesses.
“The best thing to do is put it behind you because you can’t change the past,” she said of a particularly poor piece of serving in the match.
“That kind of game doesn’t happen that often. I’m playing at home I’ve got a lot to accomplish here so just win.
“I’m most happy about winning the match. The last time we played we had such a battle it was so intense, so to win in straight sets today is showing I’m playing some good tennis.”
Up next for the American is Carla Suarez Navarro but Venus is confident heading into her last-16 tie.
“I think she plays a very similar game to my opponent today – feisty,” she added.
“She can make shots from all around the court. We’ve played so I do know what to expect – it’s different when you’re playing players you’ve never played before, which happens a lot these days so I know I’ve got to come out, play well, have it all behind me, get a win.”
Goerges dispatches Krunic
Julia Goerges, the 30th seed, advanced to her first-ever US Open fourth round by serving her way past Aleksandra Krunic of Serbia, 6-3 6-3, on Court 5, and seizing control early in the first set.
With Krunic serving at 1-1, the German employed a defensive lob to force her opponent off the net and extend a point that looked finished.
When a Krunic forehand error ended the highlight-reel point, it seemed to momentarily break her spirit, and Goerges reeled off the next two points to secure the early break.
From there, Goerges relied on strong serving to stay ahead in the set, eventually closing it out with a two-break cushion at 6-3.
She would win a staggering 84 percent of her first-serve points in the match.
Set two stayed on serve until Krunic, serving at 3-4, committed a pair of untimely unforced errors, one off of each baseline wing, to concede the decisive break.
There would be one final test for Goerges, as she was forced to save three break points in a 14-point game to close out the match.
They were the only break points the German faced.
American Sloane Stephens awaits in round four, and a last-eight matchup with Maria Sharapova potentially lurks beyond that.