Serena Williams had a very good day on Sunday. The weather was perfect, it was her daughter’s second birthday, and some potential traffic in her quest for a record-tying 24th Grand Slam singles title cleared out in front of her.
It was good enough that Williams, the No. 8 seed, powered her way past No. 22 Petra Martic, 6-3, 6-4, in their fourth-round meeting at the United States Open. But results on other courts had to cheer her, too, as second-seeded Ashleigh Barty and third-seeded Karolina Pliskova, both of whom were in Williams’s half of the draw, lost.
No. 18 Wang Qiang stunned Barty, 6-2, 6-4, to reach her first quarterfinals of a major tournament in 21 tries, and No. 16 Johanna Konta beat Pliskova, 6-7 (1), 6-3, 7-5, leaving Williams’s road to the final much more manageable, even if she cannot say so.
“I can’t afford to look at it that way; every single match I have played, people come and they play their best,” said Williams, who will play Wang, not Barty, in the quarterfinals on Tuesday.
She added, “I have to be the greatest, whether it’s against the second seed, the No. 1 seed, or the No. 80th player in the world. I have to show up, or else I’m going to go home.”
Only No. 1 Naomi Osaka and No. 5 Elina Svitolina remain from the top five women’s seeds. Svitolina was scheduled to play No. 10 Madison Keys on Sunday night.
On the men’s side, No. 3 Roger Federer avoided Barty’s fate and needed three fewer minutes to dismiss David Goffin in three sets, 6-2, 6-2, 6-0. It was Federer’s most dominant performance of the tournament so far and he is back in the quarterfinals after last year’s surprise fourth-round defeat to John Millman.
Federer’s next opponent is Grigor Dimitrov, who beat Alex de Minaur, 7-5, 6-3, 6-4, in their fourth-round match. Also, No. 5 Daniil Medvedev, the do-it-yourself villain of the tournament, beat Dominik Koepfer, 3-6, 6-3, 6-2, 7-6 (2), in Louis Armstrong Stadium, and then taunted the crowd for booing him, as he did in his previous match.
Medvedev is embracing his new role as bad guy. He told the audience in an on-court interview that he was suffering from a shoulder injury and that the fans’ negative energy motivated him to play through it and win. He also requested they continue to boo him in his next match, against the winner of Sunday’s later match between No. 1 Novak Djokovic and No. 23 Stan Wawrinka. The fans responded to Medvedev by booing more, but most of the fans were smiling and playing along.
For Williams, it was all cheers. The only concerning moment of the day for the 37-year-old came in the fifth game of the second set when she twisted her right ankle as she charged the net for a backhand volley. She fell to the court and grabbed the ankle, but finished out the game by breaking Martic’s serve.
Williams twisted her other ankle in her quarterfinal loss to Pliskova at the Australian Open in January, and it may have cost her the match. She blew a 5-1 lead in the third set and squandered four match points as Pliskova won, 6-4, 4-6, 7-5. Williams indicated this injury was not nearly so serious, but at the moment it happened, she was worried.
“I had a really bad ankle sprain in January,” she said. “I was like, instantly, No, this can’t happen. I’m finally healthy.”
Williams did not walk with a limp after the match and said she had already begun treating the ankle.
“So far I’m good,” she said. “I have been managing it. We’ll see tomorrow.”
Coincidentally, the only other time Williams was scheduled to play Wang was at the Miami Open in March, but Williams had to pull out of that match because of a knee injury.
Wang had surprisingly little trouble beating a sluggish and sloppy Barty, whose breakout year was capped by winning the French Open in June and reaching No. 1.
In addition to the French Open on clay, Barty also won tournaments in Sydney, Australia, and Miami on hardcourts; and Birmingham, England, on grass. She surged from No. 15 in January to No. 1 in June, so despite Sunday’s disappointment, she considered the year a success.
“It’s been incredible,” Barty said. “I mean, it’s a tough day at the office today. But it’s been a year where we’ve hit our goals.”
Wang, who is known on tour as Q, became the first Chinese player to reach the quarterfinals of the U.S. Open since Peng Shuai in 2014. But now the task grows much harder. When Wang was asked if she possesses the confidence to beat Williams, she shrugged and smiled.
“I don’t know,” she said. “Let’s see.”
For Konta, Sunday’s upset was even more rewarding because she had lost six of her seven matches against Pliskova before Sunday. Konta was born in Australia but plays for Britain, and she is the first British woman to reach a quarterfinal of the U.S. Open since Jo Durie lost to Chris Evert there in 1983.
Like Wang, Konta is also in her first U.S. Open quarterfinal. But it is the sixth time she has made it to the round of 8 at a major. Konta, 28, was a quarterfinalist at Wimbledon this year and a semifinalist at the French Open.
“More on a personal level, to be able to have made it to the quarters for my third slam in a row,” she said, “I think that’s a really, really big achievement for me.”
A few rounds down the road, it could work out well for Williams, too.