Serena rallies past Venus, builds confidence for US Open

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Serena Williams returns a shot to her sister Venus Williams during the WTA tennis tournament in Nicholasville, Kentucky, on Aug. 13, 2020. (AP Photo/Timothy D. Easley)
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Serena Williams (L) and Venus Williams touch rackets after the game. (Dylan Buell/Getty Images/AFP)
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Updated 14 August 2020

Serena rallies past Venus, builds confidence for US Open

  • Ninth-ranked Serena is preparing to chase a seventh career US Open singles crown at Flushing Meadows
  • Seven-time Grand Slam champion Venus, currently ranked 67th, ousted world No. 1 Victoria Azarenka in the first round

WASHINGTON: Serena Williams rallied to defeat sister Venus Williams 3-6, 6-3, 6-4 on Thursday in a second-round matchup of Grand Slam champions at the WTA Top Seed Open.
Top-seeded Serena, a 23-time Grand Slam winner, said the victory will boost her confidence heading into the US Open as she improved to 19-12 in the 22-year-old rivalry with Venus.
“I wanted to win this for my game and my confidence,” said Serena, whose only title as a mother came in January at Auckland.
“I honestly didn’t come here to win (a title) for the first time in my career. I just came here to get some matches. I haven’t had this much time off since I had the baby.”
Ninth-ranked Serena is one shy of matching Margaret Court’s all-time record of 24 Grand Slam titles and she is preparing to chase a seventh career US Open singles crown at Flushing Meadows.
Serena smacked a cross-court forehand winner to break Venus for a 2-1 lead in the third set, then dropped the next four games, only to break again in the seventh on another forehand cross-court winner, then hold to 4-4.
Serena zipped a backhand cross-court winner past Venus to break for a 5-4 lead and served out the match, aided by an umpire over-rule ace to reach 30-30.
Serena followed the call with her 14th ace and won after two hours and 19 minutes when Venus sent a forehand beyond the baseline.
“The last couple games I just wanted to win because I’ve been losing a lot of those tight sets,” Serena said. “I just tried to focus on those last two games.”
Serena improved to 100-110 after losing the first set, the best of any active WTA players. In the Williams sisters rivalry, the first-set winner has taken 26 of 31 meetings.
“This was right up there,” Serena said. “I’d say it was one of the all-time top five super-competitive matches between the two of us.”
Serena had six double faults and hit 67% of her first serves while winning 46% of second-serve points and taking 5-of-15 break points in her first event since February’s Fed Cup.
Venus, ranked 67th, had six aces with 11 double faults. The seven-time Grand Slam champion ousted Victoria Azarenka in the first round.
“She played unbelievable,” Serena said of Venus. “She’s doing so good. I honestly don’t know how I was able to pull it off at the end. She played so well.”
Venus, 40, and Serena, 38, had a combined age of 79 years and 19 days, the third-oldest combined age of any WTA Tour match.
The sisters concluded matters with a racquet tap at the net, a nod to the COVID-19 pandemic that had shut down the season for five months until last week and forced the Lexington, Kentucky, event to be played without public spectators.
Serena advanced to a quarter-final on Friday against fellow American Shelby Rogers, who ousted Canadian teen Leylah Fernandez 6-2, 7-5.
Thursday’s match marked the earliest Serena and Venus have met in a draw since their first tour-level meeting in the second round of the 1998 Australian Open.
Serena has won 10 of their past 12 meetings dating to Miami 2009.
It was the first match between the superstar siblings since the third round of the 2018 US Open, when Serena, in her comeback season from maternity leave, won 6-1, 6-2.
Also into the last eight was Jil Teichmann, who eliminated Kazak fifth seed Yulia Putintseva 6-2, 6-2. The Swiss next plays Catherine Bellis, who beat US compatriot Jessica Pegula 6-3, 6-2.


Late Fernandes penalty earns Man United 3-2 win at Brighton

Updated 26 September 2020

Late Fernandes penalty earns Man United 3-2 win at Brighton

  • Solskjaer: ‘Spirit and character of the boys I don’t question. The fitness and form will come’

BRIGHTON: Ole Gunnar Solskjaer admitted Manchester United were lucky to escape with a 3-2 win at Brighton thanks to a penalty from Bruno Fernandes, awarded on a VAR review after the final whistle had blown.

Brighton hit the woodwork five times and thought they had earned a deserved point when Solly March headed home to equalize five minutes into stoppage time.

However, Neal Maupay’s handball was penalized by referee Chris Kavanagh after he consulted a pitch-side monitor, having already blown for full time, and Fernandes converted from the spot in the 100th minute.

Pre-season hopes that United could mount a title challenge to their biggest rivals Liverpool and Manchester City dissipated after a dire display in losing 3-1 to Crystal Palace last weekend.

And Solskjaer’s were not much better on the south coast with Brighton boss Graham Potter lamenting “life is not fair” as United scored with their only shots on target.

“We got away with one. Maybe one point we deserved, we didn’t deserve more,” said Solskjaer.

“We’ve got to be honest enough to say they created the most chances. They had loads of shots, they had big chances and that’s not what we want. We need to improve a lot in the few weeks coming forward.”

Solskjaer again pointed to a shortened pre-season for his side’s slow start as United had just a month between the end to last season and starting the new campaign.

“The spirit and character of the boys I don’t question. The sharpness, fitness and the form will come,” added Solskjaer.

“We have a few weeks to catch up and the more games we play, we’ll get better and better, and sharper and sharper.”

Leandro Trossard hit both posts with shots from outside the box, while Adam Webster’s looping header came back off the crossbar as Brighton made the brighter start.

The hosts finally got their reward when the tireless Tariq Lamptey burst into the box from right wing-back and was clipped by Fernandes.

The United midfielder was lucky to escape a second yellow card, but Maupay ensured they did pay the penalty with a cheeky chip down the middle of the goal as David de Gea dived to his left.

However, the lead lasted just three minutes as from a fiercely driven Fernandes free-kick, Nemanja Matic turned the ball back across goal and Lewis Dunk turned the ball into his own net.

VAR came to the rescue of both sides within the first 10 minutes of the second half.

Brighton thought they had a second penalty when Paul Pogba was penalized for pulling back Aaron Connolly. However, Kavanagh overturned his initial decision when he saw a replay of the incident.

At the other end, United’s front three was beginning to click as Marcush Rashford swept home Mason Greenwood’s low cross but this time VAR ruled against United with the goalscorer marginally offside.

There was no stopping Rashford moments later when he raced onto Fernandes’s ball over the top and left Ben White trailing on the ground before his deflected effort found the top corner.

Brighton’s bad luck continued when March became the next player to hit the woodwork as his low shot across De Gea came back off the inside of the far post before Trossard smashed against the bar with just the Spanish number one to beat.

The Seagulls seemed to finally have their reward when March ghosted in at the back post to head home Alireza Jahanbakash’s cross.

But in a chaotic finale, Harry Maguire’s header from a corner struck Maupay’s arm and to Brighton’s dismay, a penalty was awarded after Kavanagh had seemingly blown for full-time.

“Sometimes life isn’t fair and it feels like that at the moment,” said Potter.

“The performance level was amazing from us, I’m so proud of the players. It’s a sore one.

“I don’t know what the shot count was but we were dominant. We deserved something from the game to say the least.”

Fernandes has never missed a top-flight penalty and stayed cool under the pressure to ensure Solskjaer’s men escaped with all three points.