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Serena punches quarterfinal ticket with win over Kanepi

AP

Serena Williams’ yells of “Come on!” crescendoed right along with the tension in a fourth-round U.S. Open match that began as a rout and suddenly became riveting.

When she ripped a backhand winner to claim the third set’s opening game Sunday, Williams let out her loudest shout of the day, leaning forward and rocking both arms. This turned into a test, and she passed it.

Williams reached the quarterfinals at Flushing Meadows for a 10th consecutive appearance — she wasn’t there last year because she gave birth to her daughter during the tournament — by raising her level after a lull and using 18 aces to beat Kaia Kanepi of Estonia 6-0, 4-6, 6-3.

“It was a ‘Serena scream.’ I don’t try to do it. It just comes out, and it’s just emotions,” said Williams, a six-time U.S. Open champion who finished with more than twice as many winners as Kanepi, 47-22.

“This is my job and this is what I do. This is how I earn a living. I’m going to do it the best I can,” she added. “Winning a big game and a very important game and a really tight game, I think it was just a relief.”

Next up for the 36-year-old American comes a quarterfinal against 2016 runner-up Karolina Pliskova, who beat Williams in the U.S. Open semifinals that year.

“I really was feeling great that year. I’m feeling great now, too. But it was a little bit different story, 2016. I was, like, a dark horse. Nobody was expecting (me) to get that far,” Pliskova said after beating No. 18 Ashleigh Barty 6-4, 6-4.

“I know she was the best at that time, but I just wanted to win. So that’s why I won, because I believed I have a chance,” the No. 8-seeded Pliskova said. “I have a game to beat her.”

The other quarterfinal on the top half of the draw will be defending champion Sloane Stephens of the U.S. against No. 19 Anastasija Sevastova of Latvia in a rematch from the same round last year.

Stephens got there by beating No. 15 Elise Mertens of Belgium 6-3, 6-3 at night, while Sevastova defeated No. 7 Elina Svitolina 6-3, 1-6, 6-0.

In women’s doubles, Nao Hibino and partner Oksana Kalashnikova of Georgia suffered a straight-sets loss on Sunday in the round of 16. Hibino and Kalashnikova fell 6-4, 6-1 against Dalila Jakupovic of Slovenia and Irina Khromacheva of Russia.

“There were games where we led but we just couldn’t get another point,” Hibino said. “I felt like our opponents’ lobs and strokes broke us down well.”

The 23-year-old Japanese, currently 122nd in the WTA singles rankings, is looking to return to the top 100 in order to compete in the Australian Open singles competition in January.

The defending men’s champion Rafael Nadal reached his fourth Grand Slam quarterfinal of the season, and 36th of his career, by getting past Nikoloz Basilashvili 6-3, 6-3, 6-7 (6-8), 6-4, while No. 11 John Isner of the U.S. made it that far at Flushing Meadows for the first time since 2011.

Isner defeated No. 25 Milos Raonic of Canada 3-6, 6-3, 6-4, 3-6, 6-2 and now faces 2009 champion Juan Martin del Potro who pounded 18 forehand winners in a 6-4, 6-3, 6-1 victory over No. 20 Borna Coric and hasn’t dropped a set through four matches.

No. 9 Dominic Thiem for a semifinal berth in what will be rematch of this year’s French Open final, which Nadal won in straight sets.

No. 9 Dominic Thiem eliminatinated 2017 runner-up and No. 5 seed Kevin Anderson 7-5, 6-2, 7-6 (7-2) and will face Nadal next.