NEW YORK, NY, USA -- No.9 seed Venus Williams advanced to the fourth round of the 2017 US Open on Friday, with a victory over Maria Sakkari of Greece, 6-3, 6-4.
With this win, Williams has reached at least the fourth round of all four majors this year. "My best tennis this year has come at the majors," Williams said in her post-match press conference.
"I don't play nearly as much as some of my contemporaries, but this year when I have played, it's definitely been quality tennis. That's exactly what I want, and obviously to play my best tennis at the Big 4."
In their one previous meeting, Sakkari gave Williams quite a scare, as a second-round meeting at last year’s Wimbledon went the distance, before Williams prevailed, 7-5, 4-6, 6-3. But it was Sakkari who succumbed here in straight sets, in 75 minutes.
"Obviously the last two rounds, straight sets, that's awesome," continued Williams. "And a win is a win. Whatever happens in the win gives you the opportunity to play the next day."
Despite the tidy match time, the match began on shaky ground. The first two Williams service games were lengthy struggles, as Sakkari was being aggressive on her returns. But unforced errors by the Greek kept Williams level through those tight games.
Williams stayed solid on her serve from there throughout the rest of the set, even though she had foot faults called on her four times. And a sloppy game by Sakkari with multiple unforced errors off the forehand handed a love break and a 4-2 lead to the American.
That would be the only break of serve by either player in the first set, as Williams took the opener 6-3 once Sakkari hit a forehand into the net on the second set point.
The second set featured far more breaks of serve, as both players started to wobble in that department. Williams ramped up the velocity on her groundstrokes to break in the first game and take a 1-0 lead.
But in a shocking development, Williams was directly broken back at love when she missed all eight serves in the very next game. This run of four double faults gave Sakkari a bit of confidence, and when she held to lead 2-1, it appeared that the set would be heavily complicated.
Williams broke again for 3-2 off of a flurry of errors from Sakkari, but after hitting a jarring fifth foot fault, the American eased up on her service speed, and the World No.95 was able to hit some powerful returns and level the match once more, at 3-3.
Sakkari then clawed back from 0-40 to deuce in her next service game, and it felt like the 22-year-old Greek had found the key to extending this match much further. But one of her many forehand unforced errors gave Williams a fourth break point in the game, which she converted for a 4-3 lead.
That was all that the seven-time Grand Slam champion would need, as she finally found clarity on her serve (despite a sixth foot fault), winning eight of her final nine service points to close out the match in two sets.
It was a close match, as only one break separated the combatants in each set. But the experience of the American veteran won out in the end, as she had a slightly higher first serve percentage than Sakkari, even with the poor patches, and won 76 percent of the points where the first serve was in.
Sakkari competed well and provided a solid account of herself, but her forehand let her down in the tight moments. 18 of her 25 unforced errors came off of that wing.
Williams will next play World No.35 Carla Suarez Navarro of Spain, who just missed the US Open seedings. The former World No.6 defeated Ekaterina Makarova of Russia in her third-round match earlier on Friday.