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U.S. Open: Venus Williams, Sloane Stephens reach quarterfinals

Venus Williams reacts against Carla Suarez Navarro during

Venus Williams reacts against Carla Suarez Navarro during the U.S. Open on Sept. 3, 2017. Photo Credit: Kathleen Malone-Van Dyke

It was a very good weekend for American women’s tennis at the U.S. Open. Two-time champion Venus Williams and Sloane Stephens won their fourth-round matches Sunday to advance to the quarterfinals, and Madison Keys, CoCo Vandeweghe and Jennifer Brady have a chance to reach the quarters Monday.

Williams defeated Carla Suarez Navarro, 6-3, 3-6, 6-1, playing a very strong final set. Williams, a winner here all the way back to 2000 and 2001, has a 19-3 record in the Grand Slams this season, a year in which she turned 37. She lost to her sister, Serena, in the Australian final and to Garbine Muguruza in the Wimbledon final.

When asked what makes her perform so well in tennis’ biggest events, Williams responded, “I think Billie Jean King put it best: Pressure is a privilege. I embrace that pressure.”

She was happy that she had overcome a scrappy, cunning player and that she is elevating her game.

“This was my best match, so I was happy to see my level rise as the tournament is continuing because I know my opponents are going to be better, I need to be better,” Williams said.

Stephens advanced with a 6-3, 3-6, 6-1 win over Julia Goerges. Her comeback this season has been considerably above expectations.

“When I started playing again at Wimbledon and D.C., I didn’t expect much,” Stephens said. “I was just playing and having fun, having a good time. I’m still playing and having a good time. That’s really all there is to it.”

After a left foot injury suffered at the Rio Olympics ultimately required surgery, Stephens missed nearly 11 months of competition. She returned at Wimbledon and surprisingly made two semifinals during the American hard- court season. Now she’s in the quarterfinals for the first time at the Open in six attempts, having missed it last year with the foot problem.

She said earlier in this tournament that the time off, while frustrating, allowed her a “reset.”

“Before I felt like I was missing out. Then I got to enjoy it, go to weddings, baby showers, soccer games, all this stuff,” Stephens said. “I was upset that I was injured. But in that time, I got to do all of the things that I would never have been able to do. Looking back, like, it was probably the best, I don’t know how long, 10 months or however long it was, that I’ve had in my life because I got to enjoy all those things.”

The late, late show. It took Madison Keys until 1:45 Sunday morning to beat Elena Vesnina in three sets on Arthur Ashe Stadium court. That wasn’t the record for latest finish in a women’s match at the U.S. Open, and Keys certainly knows that. Her match against Alison Riske at last year’s Open lasted until 1:48 a.m.

A few thousand people stayed around for her match, which followed Roger Federer’s match in a delayed start to the night session.

After dropping the first set, Keys rallied for a 2-6, 6-4, 6-1 win, moved into the round of 16 and credited the vocal crowd for help turning the tide. “I was just thankful they were there,” she said. “Because they were a huge part of it.”

The match started just before midnight and lasted an hour and 55 minutes. Did the experience of the late finish in 2016 help?

“Once we got out there, the time didn’t really matter anymore,” said Keys, who has come back this season from wrist surgery. “It really wasn’t on my mind. Now it is. Now I just want to go get in bed.”

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