NEW YORK: Fifth seed Elina Svitolina knocked Venus Williams out of the US Open to reach the third round yesterday despite an heroic defensive effort from the 39-year-old former champion.
Trailing 5-3 in the second set, seven-times Grand Slam champion Williams saved five-match points to hold serve in a dramatic 22-point game.
The 24-year-old Ukrainian, who has reached the fourth round of the U.S. Open for the past two years, struggled to convert break points throughout the match, winning just four out of 17.
Svitolina, who beat Williams in the first round at Roland Garros this year, called the American an “inspiration”.
“I had to stay very focused,” said the 24-year-old Ukrainian. “She’s a very experienced player so she knows how to handle (these) moments.”
Karolina Pliskova put on a serving masterclass to defeat Mariam Bolkvadze 6-1 6-4 and advance to the third round.
The towering third-seeded Czech pounded nine aces and won 90 per cent of her first-serve points at Arthur Ashe Stadium, which had its retractable roof closed due to rain.
World number 202 Bolkvadze, who was playing only her second main-draw match at a Grand Slam, appeared to struggle with nerves in a one-sided opening set.
Pliskova fired a blistering backhand winner to convert her fourth break point opportunity in the second set and extinguish any hope of a comeback by the Georgian qualifier.
The 27-year-old, who is known for being a perfectionist, said she is learning to be kinder to herself.
“It can be tough because sometimes I don’t want to miss anything, even when I make some good winners I just still find something ... it was maybe not that clean,” she told reporters.
“But with the years and with some experience, it makes me feel better about it and just let some things go, which I was not able to do before.
“So even if the shot is not perfect or if it’s perfect, it’s the past now. Just keep forgetting things and start over again on the next point. That’s what is happening with me right now.”
Former world number one Pliskova is still searching for her maiden Grand Slam title and the speedy U.S. Open hard courts, where she reached the final in 2016, could provide her best opportunity.