Serena Williams Blown Away By Third-Round US Open Win (Kidding)
NEW YORK -- After all Serena Williams has experienced in 2014, it was hard to read her Saturday when she said she "couldn't believe" she had made it into the second week of the US Open.
"It's like a dream come true for me at this point," she said.
Really? Has it gotten that bad for the 17-time Grand Slam champion and five-time winner here?
"I'm being sarcastic," she said, smiling.
Nevertheless, reaching the Round of 16 with a 6-3, 6-3 victory over Varvara Lepchenko was certainly significant for Williams after she exited in the fourth, second and third rounds of the Australian, French and Wimbledon, respectively.
But obviously, she is not celebrating just yet.
"I got a little down on myself today," Williams said. "But lesson learned. Next round, I'm just going to go in there and fight as hard as I can and leave everything on the court."
The two-time defending Open champ is trying to become the first woman to three-peat since Chris Evert won four in a row from 1975 to '78. Williams also is hoping to avoid her first season since 2006 without reaching at least one major final.
But on a windy day that saw still another women's seed fall with No. 3 Petra Kvitova's loss to Aleksandra Krunic, it was all about hanging in, she said.
"I definitely had to fight to find my rhythm," said Williams, who converted on just 4-of-18 break-point chances. "At the same time, she was playing really well. She was going for shots, getting so many balls back ... and [hitting] a better shot at times."
The 28-year-old Lepchenko, the third American opponent in a row here for Williams, had only managed three games in each of her two previous matches against her.
On Saturday, Lepchenko, once ranked as high as 19th in 2012 but currently 52nd, kept Williams pinned to the baseline early, from where she seldom strayed (seven times in the first set, good for five points). She also out-aced Williams 6-3 and hit more winners 24-14.
Next round I'm just going to go in there and fight as hard as I can and leave everything on the court.Serena Williams
But Williams held at 3-all tie in the first, broke in the eighth game to go up 5-3 and then held again for the 38-minute first set.
"It definitely wasn't the easiest conditions for both of us," Lepchenko said. "I was definitely taken by surprise at how windy it was. You'd hit it really hard, then get to the other side, and you don't know how hard you're supposed to hit it. ... I think we were both fighting to get that rhythm."
Lepchenko showed more feistiness in the second and fought back to hold serve in the first game after being down triple-break point, then holding at 3-2 after being down a double-break point.
But in the end, Williams showed more aggressiveness and, more than anything, the will of a former champion in extending her US Open win streak to 17 straight matches.
Five of the top 10 women's seeds have already fallen in the first week of play, but Williams was in no position to hazard a guess as to why.
"I don't know," she said. "I've been a casualty this whole year at Grand Slams. I'm just hoping to keep staying in there."
Is it good enough to go all the way?
"She's done it before," Lepchenko said simply. "I'm sure she can do it again."