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Serena Williams, Roger Federer roll at U.S. Open with Wimbledon behind them

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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.

U.S. OPEN DRAWS: Men | Women

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.”

MORE: Serena Williams has terse reply to question about chair umpire

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Simone Biles returns to the gym, going from mental drain to physical pain

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For Simone Biles, this was supposed to be the stretch run of a legendary career.

Instead, she returned to her gym on May 18 with long-term thoughts of waiting 14 months until the Tokyo Olympics. And the immediate aches of a world-class gymnast who just missed nearly two months of regular training.

“After that amount of time off, it kind of sucks because your body hurts and then you get really sore,” Biles said in a pre-recorded ESPNW interview that aired Thursday. “So you just have to get back into the swing of things. But it felt nice to see my coaches, my teammates, and just to be back on the equipment and in the environment.”

In that same Texas gym three months ago, Biles had a far different outlook. One that would have put fear into any gymnast who still harbored ambition of ending her near-seven-year win streak.

“I never felt more ready this early in the season,” she said. “I was so ready for the Olympics to be this year.”

Biles repeated in interviews the last two months that the Olympic postponement to 2021 was devastating. Thoughts zig-zagged: How do I go on another year, at age 23, in a sport recently dominated by (but not limited to) teenagers?

“I’m getting pretty old,” she said in the interview published Thursday. “Will I be at the top of my game?”

Biles proved the last two years — after a year off — that she can win — and comfortably — while not at her best. She grabbed the 2018 World all-around title by a record margin — with two falls. Last year, she became the most decorated gymnast in world championships history. In Tokyo, she can become the first woman to repeat as Olympic all-around champion, and the only one older than 20, in more than 50 years.

This for a gymnast whose early goal was to earn a college scholarship. Biles did, to UCLA, but had to give it up by turning professional.

“So I’ve exceeded that,” Biles said. “And then I wanted to go to world championships and Olympics, and I’ve been to five worlds and one Olympic Games. So, I’d be more than happy [to walk away].”

After gymnastics, Biles has another goal — to be a voice for foster kids. She was in foster care multiple times before being adopted at age 6 by grandparents Ron and Nellie.

Those plans, along with so much else for Biles and so many others, have been pushed back a full year.

“I was already being mentally drained and almost, not done with the sport, but just going into the gym and feeling tired and being like, OK, I’m going to get my stuff [done], get out,” she said. “We have this one end goal, and now that it’s postponed another [year], it’s just like, how are we going to deal with that? We’re already being drained, and so it’s to keep the fire in the sport within yourself alive.”

MORE: Top U.S. gymnasts disagree with Tokyo Olympic age rule

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2022 Pan Pacific Championships canceled as swimming calendar shifts

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The Pan Pacific Swimming Championships, a quadrennial major international meet, will not be held in 2022 “out of respect for the recent changes to the international sporting calendar,” according to a press release.

The Pan Pacs’ charter nations — the U.S., Australia, Canada and Japan — agreed to the move. The 2026 event will be held in Canada, which was supposed to be the 2022 host.

The decision came after the 2021 World Championships were moved to May 2022, following the Tokyo Olympics moving from 2020 to 2021 due to the coronavirus pandemic. The quadrennial multi-sport Commonwealth Games — which includes Australia and Canada, but not the U.S. or Japan — are scheduled for July 27-Aug. 7, 2022.

“Organizing a third major championships in that window presented several challenges,” according to the Pan Pacs release.

Pan Pacs mark the third-biggest major international meet for U.S. swimmers, held in non-Olympic, non-world championships years.

MORE: Caeleb Dressel co-hosts a podcast. It’s not about swimming.

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