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 at this unusual US Open is that three of the women who made it through to the last 16 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.
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,’ 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.
Belarusian star Victoria Azarenka is another one of the survivors at Flushing Meadows
‘But other than that, it’s just minus — I’m not with her, I’m not around her. It’s hard, because I spend a tremendous amount of time with her.’
Although Olympia is staying with her, it is clear that Williams is trying to shut out 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 focused on wider events in American society.
But then Williams is 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. 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.’
Olympia, daughter of Serena Williams, attends the third round match against Sloane Stephens
There can be no let-up against world No 22 Sakkari, who beat her at last month’s relocated Cincinnati Open. On Saturday she defeated highly rated young American Amanda Anisimova for the loss of just four games.
On Sunday night, American Jennifer Brady knocked out 2016 champion Angelique Kerber 6-1, 6-4. The 25-year-old has yet to drop a set this fortnight and is into her first Grand Slam quarter-final.
On the men’s side, the biggest threat to Novak Djokovic — who was last night due to face Spain’s Pablo Carreno Busta — may come from the winner of today’s fourth-round match between second seed Dominic Thiem and Felix Auger-Aliassime.
Having dumped out Andy Murray, the young Canadian dispatched Corentin Moutet, who had ousted Dan Evans, for the loss of just five games. Given that his last two opponents came in off the back of gruelling five-setters, this is going to be the gauge of just how good 20-year-old Auger-Aliassime is right now.
Londoner Joe Salisbury and his American partner Rajeev Ram have picked up where they left off in winning the Australian Open title and are into the semi-finals after a 6-2, 7-6 win over Americans Chris Eubanks and Mackenzie McDonald.