Chris Evert, a six-time U.S Open champion and 18-time Grand Slam winner who’s now an analyst for ESPN, gave Serena Williams the “slight edge” in Friday’s third-round U.S. Open match between Serena and Venus Williams.
Evert based that on the progress Serena has recently made in her return from maternity leave and the fact that Venus had a knee injury that led her to withdraw from a pre-Open tournament in Cincinnati. No matter who wins, Evert expects it to be riveting. “I love it. It’s a celebration of the two most dominant players over the last 20 years,” Evert said Thursday. “It’s a legacy we’ll never, ever see again, two sisters playing at that level. It transcends tennis purists. Everybody is curious and will be intrigued.”
Venus defeated Serena in the third round at Indian Wells in March, Serena’s first tournament since her baby’s birth. “She’s a different player now,” Evert said. “I think if Venus is playing well it could be a three-set battle. It almost depends more on Venus than Serena.
“Serena is more consistent now. She’s eager and she’s moving better. The question is, can Venus step it up? Serena is kind of on a roll, as she’s proven in her last two matches. She’s starting to get her mojo back.”
Venus, seeded No. 16, defeated wild-card Svetlana Kuznetsova in three sets and Camila Giorgi in three sets. Serena, seeded 17th, defeated Magda Linette 6-4, 6-0 and subdued Carina Witthoeft 6-2, 6-2. Serena is 17-12 against her sister.
Evert said that defending champion Sloane Stephens, 2017 runner-up Madison Keys, Angelique Kerber and the Williams sisters are capable of winning here. She’d put “more of my money” on Serena than on Venus. “The thing with Venus is her knee. I question, with seven matches in a row on hard courts, how her knee will hold up,” Evert said. “Serena is a little fresher and if she gets to the second week she’ll be dangerous. She still has her weapons.”
No. 2-seeded Caroline Wozniacki, this year’s Australian Open winner, was upset by unseeded Lesia Tsurenko of Ukraine 6-4, 6-2. Knee problems kept Wozniacki from preparing as well for the Open as she would have liked, but Tsurenko was smart, got a lot of balls back and played the angles well. “She played the game that I was supposed to be playing,” Wozniacki said.
No more Tennys
Novak Djokovic fended off American Tennys Sandgren 6-1, 6-3, 6-7 (2), 6-2 in the night session. Djokovic’s third-round opponent will be Richard Gasquet, a 6-3, 7-6 (5), 6-3 winner over Laslo Djere. Djokovic, who has two U.S. Open titles among his 13 Grand Slam championships, liked his effort aside from a brief lapse in concentration. “It was just me being me, the other me that the first me doesn’t like,” he said.
No. 4-seeded Alexander Zverev reached the third round here for the first time with a 6-4, 6-4, 6-2 win over Nicolas Mahut of France. But No. 14 Fabio Fognini fell to unseeded Australian John Millman 6-1, 4-6, 6-4, 6-1, and No. 23 Hyeon Chung of South Korea lost to Mikhail Kukushkin of Kazakhstan 7-6 (5), 6-2, 6-3. Injuries led Gael Monfils to retire against No. 21 Kei Nishikori, and No. 12 Pablo Carreno Busta to retire against Joao Sousa.
Keys advanced to the third round with a 6-4, 6-1 victory over Bernarda Para. “I think I definitely brought my game up to a better level in the second set, so I’m happy with it,” Keys said. No. 4 Angelique Kerber of Germany, this year’s Wimbledon winner, was pushed hard by unseeded Johanna Larsson of Sweden but held on to win 6-2, 5-7, 6-4. Her third-round opponent will be Dominika Cibulkova of the Czech Republic, who outlasted Su-Wei Hsieh of Taipei 7-6 (3), 4-6, 6-4. No. 6 Caroline Garcia of France got past Monica Puig of Puerto Rico 6-2, 1-6, 6-4. No. 22 Maria Sharapova fended off Sorana Cirstea of Romania 6-2, 7-5.
Aliaksandra Sasnovich of Belarus upset No. 11 Daria Kasatkina of Russia 6-2, 7-6 (3). Sasnovich’s third-round opponent will be No. 20 Naomi Osaka, who defeated qualifier Julia Glushko of Israel 6-2, 6-0 in 50 minutes. No. 26 Aryna Sabalenka of Belarus advanced with a 6-3, 7-6 (7) victory over Vera Zvonareva of Russia. Sabalenka will face No. 5 Petra Kvitova of the Czech Republic, who eliminated Yafan Wang of China, 7-5, 6-3.