Adam Zagoria covers basketball at all levels. He is the author of two books and an award-winning journalist whose articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Sports Illustrated, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide.
Serena Williams, the No. 28 seed, rolled over No. 16 Ana Ivanovic and into the U.S. Open quarterfinals Monday with a 6-3, 6-4 victory inside a windy Arthur Ashe Stadium.
Knicks fan extraordinaire Spike Lee sat in Serena’s player’s box for a match that lasted just 1 hour, 14 minutes.
Williams, who remains the prohibitive favorite despite her low seed, will next meet 20-year-old Russian, Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, the No. 17 seed, in the quarters.
The Russian upset No. 7 Francesca Schiavone, 5-7, 6-3, 6-4, in 2 hours, 41 minutes.
“As I said even before the match, I think she’s the favorite for the tournament,” Ivanovic said of Serena. “She’s been playing really well, and it’s gonna be tough, you know.”
After Ivanovic rebounded from an 0-3 deficit in the first set to tie the match at 3-3, Serena let out a piercing shriek of “Come on” in the seventh game that seemed to rattle the Serb.
Ivanovic said the shriek didn’t bother her, but conceded Serena can be intimidating.
“She does try to intimidate,” she said. “She stays close to the baseline so you feel like you have no space to hit to. That’s something I expected going into the match.
“I really try not to look so much across the net. I just tried to focus on my game and tried to do everything that I can.
The winds were blowing forcefully in Ashe Stadium, perhaps foreshadowing rain later in the day.
Ivanovic, who hasn’t advanced to the quarterfinals of a major since winning the French Open in 2008, had all kinds of trouble with her service toss. She double-faulted eight times, the equivalent of two full games, while serving three aces.
Serving at 3-4 in the first set, Ivanovic double-faulted three times, including on game point, to give Williams the break.
“It was really gusty out here,” Ivanovic said. “And in the wind it’s always gonna be even tougher.
“In those kind of conditions, serve is the shot that it’s gonna go away from both players because of the conditions. My serve broke down little more than hers did. I still created lots of opportunities and I felt I was stepping up a lot, and I just felt that was the biggest difference today.”
Serena, by contrast, used her concise service toss and powerful serve to cut through the wind for nine aces and just one double.
“So windy today, it was definitely tough,” said Williams, a three-time U.S. Open and 13-time major champion.
After missing more than a year because of two operations on her foot and blood clots in her lungs, Serena improved to 16-0 on hardcourts this season.
“I’m so happy, I feel so blessed to be back,” she said. “A couple months ago, I wouldn’t have expected to here.”
Serena continues to play on after her older sister, Venus, withdrew after the first round, citing an autoimmune disease.
Next up is the Russian Pavlyuchenkova, the youngest player remaining in either draw.
Serena won their only previous encounter, in three sets at the 2010 French Open.
“She’s just awesome and a great athlete and she’s showing good tennis so far,” Pavlyuchenkova said. “I don’t want to go out there and enjoy just being on the center court playing against Serena. I would like to do well, try to fight, and with my effort I try to beat her, you know.
“But of course I respect her a lot, as well. She’s just great.”
Adam Zagoria is a Basketball Insider who covers basketball at all levels. A contributor to The New York Times and SportsNet New York (SNY), he is also the author of two books and is an award-winning journalist and filmmaker. His articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide. He also won an Emmy award for his work on the SNY mini-documentary on Syracuse guard Tyus Battle.
A veteran Ultimate Frisbee player, he has competed in numerous National and World Championships and, perhaps more importantly, his teams won the Westchester Summer League (WSL) championships in 2011 and 2013.
He lives in Manhattan with his wife and children.