Serena Williams battles into U.S. Open quarterfinals to face fellow mom

Serena Williams
Danielle Parhizkaran-USA TODAY Sports

Serena Williams advanced to her 12th straight U.S. Open quarterfinal, beating Greek Maria Sakkari 6-3, 6-7 (6), 6-3 in the fourth round on Monday.

Next up: fellow mom Tsvetana Pironkova, a Bulgarian playing her first tournament in three years.

Williams, eyeing a record-tying 24th Grand Slam singles title, battled past Sakkari after having her serve broken in the first game of the third set. She broke Sakkari three games later, then did it again to go up 5-3 before serving it out.

Williams served a 124 mile-per-hour ace late in the third set, fastest of the tournament.

Sakkari, the 15th seed, defeated Williams in three sets two weeks ago at the Western & Southern Open, also held at the U.S. Open grounds in New York. Williams thought about that match as she went to three sets on Monday.

“I was a little fatigued last time and had some cramps, but I felt like Maria played a completely — I felt like she almost played better today,” she said. “I’m not only match fit, I’m fit fit.”

The third seed Williams gets Pironkova in the quarters, looking to make her 11th straight U.S. Open semifinal (not counting years she was absent).

Pironkova, 32 and a 2010 Wimbledon semifinalist, beat Frenchwoman Alize Cornet 6-4, 6-7 (5), 6-3 in the fourth round on Monday. Pironkova won the first seven sets, all without tiebreaks, of her first event since 2017 Wimbledon and 2018 childbirth. She said that everything about being mother has helped her on court.

“Obviously, you become a different person,” said Pironkova, who returned to playing eight months ago. “You don’t focus on yourself that much anymore.

“I’m a lot more organized, as well. Mentally, I have more mental endurance, also. Physically, I know my body better.”

Williams is 4-0 against Pironkova, the last meeting in 2015.

“Playing such a champion, such a legend of the game, it’s tremendous honor, obviously,” Pironkova said. “I’m really looking forward to that match, because I know the feeling is going to be very special.”

Williams could play No. 2 Sofia Kenin in the semifinals and No. 4 Naomi Osaka in the final, the other remaining top-15 seeds.

She is one Grand Slam singles title shy of Margaret Court‘s record, though Williams owns the record in the Open Era since 1968 with professional participation.

US OPEN DRAWS: Men | Women

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Joan Benoit Samuelson, Olympic marathon champ in 1984, runs London Marathon at 65

Joan Benoit Samuelson

Joan Benoit Samuelson, the first Olympic women’s marathon champion in 1984, ran her first 26.2-mile race in three years at Sunday’s London Marathon and won her age group.

Benoit Samuelson, 65, clocked 3 hours, 20 minutes, 20 seconds to top the women’s 65-69 age group by 7 minutes, 52 seconds. She took pleasure in being joined in the race by daughter Abby, who crossed in 2:58:19.

“She may have beaten me with my replacement knee, but everybody said I wouldn’t do it! I will never say never,” Benoit Samuelson said, according to race organizers. “I am a grandmother now to Charlotte, and it’s my goal to run 5K with her.”


Benoit Samuelson raced the 1987 Boston Marathon while three months pregnant with Abby. Before that, she won the first Olympic women’s marathon at the 1984 Los Angeles Games, plus the Boston Marathon in 1979 and 1983 and the Chicago Marathon in 1985.

Her personal best — 2:21:21 — still holds up. She ranks sixth in U.S. women’s history.

Benoit Samuelson plans to race the Tokyo Marathon to complete her set of doing all six annual World Marathon Majors. The others are Berlin, Boston, Chicago and New York City.

“I’m happy to finish this race and make it to Tokyo, but I did it today on a wing and a prayer,” she said, according to organizers. “I’m blessed to have longevity in this sport. It doesn’t owe me anything, but I feel I owe my sport.”

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Kenenisa Bekele still eyes Eliud Kipchoge’s marathon world record, but a duel must wait

Kenenisa Bekele

LONDON — Kenenisa Bekele made headlines last week by declaring “of course I am the best” long distance runner ever. But the Ethiopian was fifth-best at Sunday’s London Marathon, finishing 74 seconds behind Kenya’s Amos Kipruto.

Bekele, 40, clocked 2:05:53, the fastest-ever marathon by a runner 40 years or older. He was with the lead pack until being dropped in the 21st mile.

But Bekele estimated he could have run 90 to 120 seconds faster had he not missed parts of six weeks of training with hip and joint injuries.

“I expect better even if the preparation is short,” he said. “I know my talent and I know my capacity, but really I couldn’t achieve what I expect.”

Bekele is the second-fastest marathoner in history behind Kenya’s Eliud Kipchoge, who broke his own world record by clocking 2:01:09 at the Berlin Marathon last week.

“I am happy when I see Eliud Kipchoge run that time,” Bekele said. “It motivates all athletes who really expect to do the same thing.”


Bekele’s best time was within two seconds of Kipchoge’s previous world record (2:01:39). He described breaking Kipchoge’s new mark as the “main goal” for the rest of his career.

“Yes, I hope, one day it will happen, of course,” Bekele said. “With good preparation, I don’t know when, but we will see one more time.”

Nobody has won more London Marathons than Kipchoge, a four-time champion who set the course record (2:02:37) in 2019. But the two-time Olympic marathon champion did not run this year in London, as elite marathoners typically choose to enter one race each spring and fall.

Bekele does not know which race he will enter in the spring. But it will not be against Kipchoge.

“I need to show something first,” Bekele said. “I need to run a fast time. I have to check myself. This is not enough.”

Kipchoge will try to become the first runner to win three Olympic marathon titles at the Paris Games. Bekele, who will be 42 in 2024, has not committed to trying to qualify for the Ethiopian team.

“There’s a long time to go before Paris,” Bekele said. “At this moment I am not decided. I have to show something.”

So who is the greatest long distance runner ever?

Bekele can make a strong case on the track:

Four Olympic medals (three gold)
Six World Championship medals (five gold)
Former 5000m and 10,000m world-record holder

Two Olympic medals
Two World Championship medals (one gold)

But Kipchoge can make a strong case on the pavement:

Second-fastest marathoner in history
Two World Marathon Major victories

Four of the five best marathon times in history
Two-time Olympic marathon champion
12 World Marathon Major victories

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