Serena Williams hits a return to Karolina Muchova of the Czech...

Serena Williams hits a return to Karolina Muchova of the Czech Republic during their third round match at the 2019 U.S. Open at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center on August 30, 2019. Credit: AFP/Getty Images/KENA BETANCUR

   Apparently, Serena Williams was looking to spend some quality time with her daughter Friday night.

       Williams, excited by the prospect of a free night after a daytime appearance at Arthur Ashe Stadium, made quick work of her third round match Friday, defeating Karolina Muchova of the Czech Republic, 6-3, 6-2, at the U.S. Open. She then shared some baby talk with the U.S. Open fans and detailed her nighttime routine of reading a story and saying prayers with her daughter Olympia.

      When Williams steps on the court Sunday for her round of 16 match against Petra Martic of Croatia, it will be the two-year anniversary of her daughter’s birth, an event that was followed by complications that nearly killed her and has led her to advocate for improved maternal healthcare regardless of race or background.

     “I think two years ago, I had things attached to my arm, IVs, and it was a miracle that happened having my baby,” Williams said. “It really was a great day for me. And then it all went downhill after that for a good five days.

     “But, I’m here and I’m reflecting on my opponent more than anything.”

       Williams has won 23 Grand Slams, but hasn’t won a major since becoming a mom.  Her quest for No. 24, which would tie her with Margaret Court for the record, has endeared her to a number of fans, especially working mothers who have struggled to return to their careers after giving birth.

       Since returning to competition in 2018, Williams has reached three Grand Slam finals, including Wimbledon this year. She lost all three in straight sets.  Williams’ last Grand Slam title came at the 2017 Australian Open. Williams, who was pregnant, beat her sister Venus in the final.

     The No. 8-seeded Williams needed just an hour and 14 minutes to beat the 44th ranked Muchova.

       After Muchova held serve to take an early 3-2 lead, Williams won the next seven games to take control of the match. Williams’ domination was so complete that she managed to survive the fact she had somewhat of an inconsistent serve, double faulting seven times.

      "Had to go out there on business," Williams said. "I think I tried to do that with all three matches thus far. It was just different because I know that [Muchova] could play today. I knew what she could do."

     Up next for Williams is Martic, who beat Latvian Anastasija Sevastova in straight sets on Friday. Martic, 28, is having the best season of her career, winning her first WTA singles title in Istanbul and reaching her first Grand Slam quarterfinals at the French Open.

        This will mark the 19th consecutive time that Williams has made it to the round of 16 at the U.S. Open. But her sights, of course, are set on a more distant horizon. When asked Friday how she thought she was playing, Williams paused:

        “I don't know. Like I said on the court, I don't know how I would grade my performance. Just gotta keep playing and believing.”

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