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Serena battles through to US Open quarterfinals; Thiem routs Auger-Aliassime

Flushing Meadows, New York, Sep 7 (efe-epa).- American great Serena Williams faced plenty of resistance from Maria Sakkari on Monday afternoon, but she used her grit and mental toughness to pull out a 6-3, 6-7 (6-8), 6-3 victory and earn a berth in the US Open quarterfinals for the 17th time.

Willliams, who is seeking to tie the all-time record for women’s singles Grand Slam titles (24) this fortnight, needed two hours and 28 minutes to put away her talented Greek opponent in their behind-closed-doors match at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center.

The 38-year-old American appeared to be in danger when she lost the second-set tiebreaker and fell behind an early service break in the third against Sakkari, a player she lost to late last month at the Western & Southern Open, a tournament played this year at the same venue as the US Open.

As always, Serena’s serve was a key weapon for her, as she only lost serve once throughout the contest on Arthur Ashe Stadium. But her defense and consistency also were major factors in the victory against an opponent who had plenty of firepower but frequently beat herself with unforced errors.

For the match, Sakkari struck 35 winners to Serena’s 30 and 13 aces to her opponent’s 12. But she paid the price for her 43 unforced errors, many of which came after the third-seeded American had scrambled to stay in the rally.

Afterward, the oldest player left in either the men’s or women’s singles draws put to rest any concerns about her fitness.

“I’m definitely match fit. I’ve played a lot of three sets, so that’s also good because I’m not only match fit, I’m fit fit,” she was quoted as saying on the WTA’s official website.

Next up for Serena in the quarterfinals will be unseeded Russian Tsvetana Pironkova, who downed Frenchwoman Alize Cornet 6-4, 6-7 (5-7), 6-3 on Monday.

In men’s singles action in the day session, Austrian No. 2 Dominic Thiem cemented his status as tournament favorite by trouncing up-and-coming Canadian Felix Auger-Aliassime 7-6 (7-4), 6-1, 6-1.

The 15th-seeded Auger-Aliassime seemed capable of going toe-to-toe with Thiem in the first set on Arthur Ashe Stadium.

But the blistering pace and precision of Thiem’s ground strokes were simply too much for his 20-year-old rival once he started eliminating his mistakes.

After committing 15 unforced errors in the first set, the second-seeded Austrian made just nine the rest of the way even while unleashing missiles all over the court from both forehand and backhand wings.

The 27-year-old Thiem is 0-3 thus far in his career in Grand Slam finals.

But with Serbian world No. 1 Novak Djokovic having been defaulted from the US Open for accidentally hitting a line judge with a ball during his fourth-round match on Sunday, the Austrian now has a golden opportunity to become the first new men’s singles major winner in six years (Marin Cilic at the 2014 US Open).

Next up for Thiem in the quarterfinals will be scrappy 21st-seeded Australian Alex de Minaur, who won a close first set before rolling to a 7-6 (8-6), 6-3, 6-2 victory over Canada’s Vasek Pospisil. EFE-EPA

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