NEW YORK — Serena Williams and Roger Federer, each coming off stinging Wimbledon final defeats, are on form going into the second week of the U.S. Open.
Williams, in her seventh try to match Margaret Court‘s record 24 Grand Slam singles titles, swept Czech Karolina Muchova 6-3, 6-2 on Friday afternoon, two days after rallying from a set down in the second round.
Federer, eyeing his 21st major title and some cushion on the all-time list over Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic, won the first set for the first time this week. He dispatched Brit Dan Evans 6-2, 6-2, 6-1 to reach the fourth round.
Top-ranked Djokovic looks to join them in week two. He plays Friday night against American Denis Kudla.
Williams gets Croatian Petra Martic on Sunday with second-ranked Ash Barty potentially waiting in the quarterfinals. Federer will also play Sunday, against No. 15 David Goffin. Federer caught a break when No. 7 Kei Nishikori, a possible quarterfinal foe, was upset by Australian Alex de Minaur.
Both Williams and Federer, born within two months of each other in 1981, continue to go into Grand Slams facing similar questions. Can Williams go the distance in a two-week event after withdrawing from her previous tournament with a back injury?
“I’ve always been really mentally strong. I’ve always been really physically strong,” said Williams, also slowed by ankle, knee and pectoral injuries since returning in 2018 from life-threatening childbirth. “I think just putting those two together at an event would be the biggest obstacle for me.”
In the Wimbledon final, Williams ran into a lights-out Simona Halep, who routed her 6-2, 6-2.
“There’s really not much you can do. You just have to understand that that was their day today,” Williams said after that loss, her third time losing a Slam final since coming back from childbirth (she hasn’t won a tournament in the comeback). “Hopefully I can raise the level of my game sometimes.”
“Seems like every Grand Slam final I’m in recently has been an unbelievable effort to get there.”
Can Federer get past Djokovic and Nadal to lift his first major title since the 2018 Australian Open, especially after such a heartbreaking loss to Djokovic in the epic Wimbledon final?
“I just feel like it’s such an incredible opportunity missed,” Federer said after squandering two match points on his own serve before Djokovic prevailed 7–6 (5), 1–6, 7–6 (4), 4–6, 13–12 (3).
The bigger picture: Djokovic reached 16 Grand Slams. Nadal is at 18. They are closer to Federer’s men’s record 20 than ever before.
“I take motivation from different places,” Federer said at Wimbledon. “Not so much from trying to stay ahead because I broke the record, and if somebody else does, well, that’s great for them. You can’t protect everything anyway.”
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