Thursday, August 13, 2020

Serena subdues Venus; Andreescu pulls out of U.S. Open

The Williams sisters met for the 31st time today, but this one was unlike any of the others.

Rather than competing in front of a raucous crowd at the U.S. Open, for instance, they played with no fans in attendance at the Top Seed Open in Lexington, Ky., because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Top-seeded Serena Williams, who has a residence in Silicon Valley, prevailed 3-6, 6-3, 6-4 in a more intense match than usual between the sisters to reach the quarterfinals of the first WTA tournament in North America in almost one year. 

Serena won the last four games, breaking serve on a backhand passing shot down the line to lead 5-4 and holding serve on Venus' long forehand for the victory.

"I said I really need to try to win this for my game and confidence, so I really tried to focus on those last two games," Serena said in a post-match interview. 

Serena added that she enjoys the low-key atmosphere this week.

"There are no crowds, so it's super-relaxing," she said.

In today's match, ninth-ranked Serena blasted 14 aces and committed six double faults. Venus, ranked No. 67, had six aces and 11 double faults.

It was the earliest meeting between the sisters since their first one in 1998, a 7-6 (4), 6-1 victory by Venus in the second round of the Australian Open. They were supposed to play each other in the second round of last year's Italian Open, but Serena withdrew because of a left knee injury.

Serena, 38, improved to 19-12 against Venus, 40, with 10 victories in their last 12 matches.

Serena won three singles titles and Venus two in the Bank of the West Classic at Stanford before the tournament moved to nearby San Jose as the Mubadala Silicon Valley Classic in 2018. Venus made her professional debut indoors in Oakland at 14 in 1994.

Serena is scheduled to play Shelby Rogers, a 27-year-old wild card from Charleston, S.C., for the first time on Friday not before 9:30 a.m. PDT (Tennis Channel). Rogers, ranked No. 116, defeated qualifier Leylah Fernandez, a 17-year-old left-hander from Canada, 6-2, 7-5 to reach a WTA quarterfinal for the first time in more than three years.

Rogers advanced to the quarterfinals of the 2016 French Open and attained a career-high No. 48 in 2017. She had knee surgery in May 2018 and missed the rest of the season.

Fernandez, the runner-up in Acapulco in February as a qualifier, ousted seventh-seeded Sloane Stephens, the 2017 U.S. Open champion, in the first round.

CiCi Bellis, a 21-year-old San Francisco native who grew up in nearby Atherton, dominated Jessica Pegula, the 26-year-old daughter of Buffalo Bills and Sabres owners Terry and Kim Pegula, 6-3, 6-2. 

Bellis, playing in her first tournament since reaching the third round of Australian Open in January, reached her first quarterfinal since Doha in February 2018. The 5-foot-7 (1.68-meter) right-hander then underwent three operations on her right wrist and one on her right elbow. Ranked as high as No. 35 in 2017, she will jump from No. 302 to at least No. 250 on Monday.

Bellis avenged a 6-0, 6-4 loss to Pegula in the first round at Auckland in January in their only previous meeting. Pegula advanced to the final, in which she lost to Serena Williams.

Bellis is set to play unseeded Jil Teichmann, a 23-year-old left-hander from Switzerland, for the first time on Friday at 8 a.m. Teichmann, ranked No. 63, dispatched fifth-seeded Yulia Putintseva of Kazakhstan 6-2, 6-2.

The only remaining singles seeds are Williams and No. 8 Ons Jabeur, a 25-year-old Tunisian who will meet 16-year-old U.S. phenom Coco Gauff in the bottom half of the draw at about 2 p.m.

U.S. Open – Bianca Andreescu withdrew from the U.S. Open, meaning the Aug. 31-Sept. 13 tournament in New York will have two new singles champions.

"Unforeseen challenges, including the Covid pandemic, have compromised my ability to prepare and compete to the degree necessary to play at my highest level," Andreescu, ranked sixth, wrote on Instagram.

Andreescu became the fourth woman in the top seven to pull out of the U.S. Open, joining No. 1 Ashleigh Barty, No. 5 Elina Svitolina and No. 7 Kiki Bertens. The men's defending champion, Rafael Nadal, also has withdrawn because of coronavirus concerns.

Andreescu, 20, has not played a match since October because of a knee injury and the pandemic.

Novak Djokovic, a three-time U.S. Open champion, confirmed he will play in the tournament.

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