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Serena Williams advances to face sister Venus in U.S. Open quarterfinals

Serena Williams returns a shot to Madison Keys

Serena Williams returns a shot to Madison Keys during the fourth round of the U.S. Open tennis tournament, Sunday, Sept. 6, 2015. Credit: AP / Matt Rourke

Venus Williams summed it up short and sweet.

"Getting to a Grand Slam semifinal is the next step toward the final," she said. "We all know what's at stake here."

What's at stake Tuesday when Venus plays sister Serena in a U.S. Open quarterfinal? Serena, at 33, is an Open title away from completing a calendar year Grand Slam. Venus, at 35, is more than halfway to a title she last won in 2001.

The match was set up when the sisters, playing back-to-back at Ashe Stadium Sunday in fourth-round matches, steamrolled through their opponents, spending less than a total of two hours on court. First Venus defeated Estonian qualifier Anett Kontaveit, 6-2, 6-1, in 50 minutes, then Serena beat promising American Madison Keys, 6-3, 6-3, in 1 hour, 8 minutes.

Kontaveit got one break-point opportunity against Venus. It was the last game of the second set, which Venus brushed away and thus won the match. Keys never held a break point against Serena.

The sisters haven't played each other at the Open since a scintillating quarterfinal match in 2008 that Serena won in two tiebreak sets. They have played each other a total of four times at the Open and each has two wins. The most notable match was the first time they met, in the Open's first women's Saturday night final in 2001, and Venus came away with her second straight, and last, Open title.

Kontaveit and Keys thought the sisters had given them no breathing room and left them gasping for air.

"I guess I was a little bit nervous and Venus played so well, she didn't give me any chances," said Kontaveit, who nearly doubled her career earnings with the $213,575 she earned at the Open. "I felt like Venus didn't really let me play my game . . . We both like the aggressive style of play and she did it better."

Keys played a competitive semifinal match against Serena in the Australian Open early this year, losing in two sets. On Sunday, she didn't put on any pressure.

"She was playing really, really well today," Keys said. "I feel like I had to play my absolute best. It was one of those things where if I wasn't hitting a winner, I feel like she was. She wasn't giving me many unforced errors . . . She put a lot of pressure on me to kind of overplay."

Venus couldn't stop her sister's march to the Wimbledon title in July, losing to her in the fourth round. That was the third leg of Serena's Grand Slam season, coming after victories in the Australian and French Opens.

So now, in the last major and what could be the grandest one, could Venus rain on Serena's Grand Slam parade?

"I don't think anyone wants to be a spoiler," she said. "I think people love to see history being made. No one's out to be a spoiler, but at the same time, you're focused on winning your match even though the circumstances are really much different than you."

Those circumstances revolve around her sister here, around her grand quest. Venus' quest remains what it has always been, to win, even at age 35, and she's prepared.

"Even though you're playing your sister, you have to be prepared and focus," she said. "Preparation doesn't change."

There used to be a discernible tenseness among the sisters when they were facing each other. Serena says that's passed.

"I think it's more fun than it used to be," she said. "We really relish the opportunity. We're both happy to still be involved in getting so far. And it's still super-intense. She's doing well and wants to win this. So do I. It's not easy."

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