NEW YORK, (Reuters) – Serena Williams, battling the elements more than her opponent, eased into the quarter-finals of the U.S. Open yesterday with a 6-3 6-4 win over former French Open champion Ana Ivanovic of Serbia.
Both players struggled with their serves and ground strokes on a gusty Arthur Ashe Stadium but it was the American who fared better.
“I think we could have both played a little bit better because of the conditions,” said three-time U.S. Open champion Williams.
“It was crazy. I didn’t even go for winners at any point. I just tried to get it over because it was so windy. It was definitely tough.”
The hard-serving Williams powered in nine aces and had just one double fault, while Ivanovic landed three aces and committed eight double faults. The 16th-seeded made more than twice as many unforced errors as Williams.
“In those kind of conditions, serve is the shot that’s gonna go away from both players because of the conditions,” Ivanovic said. “My serve broke down a little more than hers did.”
Williams, who has played only a handful of tournaments this year since returning to the game after a long injury layoff and a life-threatening blood clot, said she was still counting her blessings for each opportunity on court.
“I feel so blessed to be here,” she said. “A couple of months ago, I didn’t think I would, so every match is a bonus.”
Williams, will play Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova in the quarter-finals. The 17th-seeded Russian upset seventh seed Francesca Schiavone of Italy 5-7 6-3 6-4.
The bad news for Pavlyuchenkova, 20, is that 13-time grand slam singles winner Williams is still working out the kinks in her game.
“I think there’s so much I can do better. The last two matches I wasn’t completely satisfied with the way I played,” said Williams, who beat Wimbledon semi-finalist Victoria Azarenka in the third round and has yet to lose a set.
“There’s a lot to improve on.”
Williams, who also has had to deal with the diagnosis that older sister Venus was suffering from an autoimmune disorder that caused her to withdraw from the championship, was in a lighthearted mood after the victory.
The 29-year-old joked about film director Spike Lee, a good friend who was cheering her on during the match, and about the karaoke room in her house.
“I know Spike really, really well,” Williams said. “We hit together once or twice. He’s good.
“He’s crazy. He wants to win more than I do. He’s like, ‘Hit it to me really hard.’ He’s actually really good. He’s like really, really intense. I’m a little intimidated.”
Williams, whose ranking slipped from number one to 175 before climbing back to 27 after two hard court titles in the lead-up to the last grand slam of the season, said she does not worry about rankings and that winning tournaments would take care of that.
Then she ruminated about where the next trophies would go, since she had run out of space to exhibit them all.
“I have a new house in L.A. I created a karaoke room, so I can’t put trophies in there,” she said.
“We sing our hearts out. We’ve sung til 8:00 in the morning. I was like, ‘Oh my God, the sun’s coming out.’ We keep singing and singing and singing. It’s magical.”