Serena Williams leads charge of the Super Mums at the US Open as former world No 1 chases Margaret Court’s record of 24 Grand Slams – with Victoria Azarenka and Tsvetana Pironkova also in contention
- Serena Williams is one of three mothers to reach last 16 of this year’s US Open
- She admits she has found it ‘hard’ to spend time away from daughter, Olympia
- Victoria Azarenka and Tsvetana Pironkova make up the other remaining mothers
- Williams will face Maria Sakkari next in quest to win 24th Grand Slam title
An unusual statistic attaching itself to this unusual US Open is that three of the women who made it through to the last sixteen are mothers.
Far more expected is that one of them is Serena Williams, who in the quest for a 24th Grand Slam title will now be facing one stiff test after another.
Having stayed calm to see off Sloane Stephens on Saturday night her next assignment is against Greece’s Maria Sakkari, who defeated her in the week leading up to this fortnight.
Serena Williams is one of three mothers to reach the last 16 of the US Open this year
There was a time recently on the WTA Tour when playing Mums were a distinct rarity, but nine of them started out in this singles draw.
The other two survivors are Victoria Azarenka and, most surprisingly, Tsvetana Pironkova. Before this the 32 year-old Bulgarian had not even played a tournament since Wimbledon 2017, and used maternity rules to gain direct entry.
Pironkova, who now plays France’s Alize Cornet, is based in the official hotel, while the American superstar has a private house for the duration.
Belarusian star Victoria Azarenka is another one of the survivors at Flushing Meadows
Williams, mother to Olympia, has been pleased to be in the company of many in a similar family situation.
‘I’m so happy that there are so many moms in the event, obviously because I’m one,’ she said. ‘The plus is that one day your daughter can say she was there, whether she remembers or not, we can always have pictures.
‘But other than that, it’s just minus, like, I’m not with her, I’m not around her. It’s hard, because I spend a tremendous amount of time with her.’
While Olympia is staying with her, it is clear that Williams is trying to shut out all the potential distractions crowding in on the US Open, in her bid for the title.
She keeps her answers notably short in post-match press conferences and, for example, has been reluctant to engage in the topic of Naomi Osaka’s campaign to keep attention focussed on wider events in American society.
Olympia, daughter of Serena Williams, attends the third round match against Sloane Stephens
But then Williams turns 39 later this month, and knows that this may be one of her last chances to equal Margaret Court’s record of Major titles, having not collected one since the 2017 Australian Open.
Even without the passage of time, she is used to the pressure which accompanies these fortnights.
‘Sometimes it’s harder than others,’ she said. ‘ Every day having ‘Serena’ on your back is a massive target for the tour, for press, for stress.
‘But as Billie Jean King said, pressure is a privilege. So I wouldn’t want it any other way. I just try to think about how fortunate I am to have been in this position.’
There can be no let-up against world number 22 Sakarri, who defeated her in three sets at August’s relocated Cincinatti Open before losing to Britain’s Jo Konta. On Saturday she defeated highly rated young American Amanda Anisimova for the loss of just four games.
Stefanos failed to meet expectations when he lost a third round clash with Borna Coric
Stefanos Tsitsipas was meant to be the Greek making waves at this event, and looked to be among the few potential challengers to Novak Djokovic, who on Sunday night is due to face Spain’s Pablo Carreno Busta.
After the third round departure of Tsitsipas, the biggest threat from the younger generation may come from the winner of the enticing fourth round match between second seed Dominic Thiem and Felix Auger-Aliassime.
Having dumped out Andy Murray, the young Canadian ruthlessly dispatched Corentin Moutet – who had ousted Dan Evans – for the loss of just five games.
Given that his last two opponents were coming in off the back of gruelling five-setters, this is going to be the gauge of just how good Auger-Aliassime is right now.
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