Fans were salivating over the potential fourth-round matchup between Serena Williams and rising star Madison Keys the day the young American’s name was drawn in the same quarter as the three-time defending champion’s.
The buzz continued as each player advanced through the draw on their path to this showdown, and the excitement reached a crescendo Sunday afternoon once Venus dispatched Anett Kontaveit to set up the real possibility of a sister-sister rematch should Serena follow big sister into the round of eight.
The hard-hitting Keys was seen as Serena’s biggest US Open test to date, and fans knew the 20-year-old had the game to upset the 21-time Grand Slam women’s singles champion. Serena had not been her lethally efficient self in wins over Kiki Bertens and Bethanie Mattek-Sands earlier in the week, promoting questions of whether she would come out of the gates slowly once again and, if she did, whether she would be able to see off the world No. 19.
All of those questions were answered in emphatic fashion as Serena turned in her best performance of the tournament to book her place in the quarterfinals.
Serena dominated on her serve – she never faced a break point – and out-hit the aggressive Keys from the baseline. Maybe more importantly, she cut down drastically on her errors, playing with a greater margin for error and letting Keys punch herself out.
Serena cracked 18 winners to just six unforced errors, compared with Keys’ 24 winners and 19 miscues. Serena’s clean ball striking and sharp angles kept Keys off balance, and the match came down to three breaks of serve from which Keys was never able to recover.
While some sections of the crowd were clamoring for a third set considering Venus was on and off the court within 50 minutes, the quality of her younger sister’s tennis more than contributed to the price of admission.
There are fewer things in tennis better than seeing Serena in full flow and with the grit between her teeth. While she might not have been at her best for the first week, she left no doubt Sunday afternoon who’s still on the top of the women’s ladder, with an emphatic victory against a very dangerous opponent.