US Open 2016: Serena Williams overtakes Federer in latest race through record books

Serena Williams set an all-time Grand Slam match-winning record of 308 by beating Yaroslava Shvedova in the fourth round

Marianne Bevis
By Marianne Bevis in New York
serena williams
Serena Williams in action in New York Photo: Marianne Bevis

How many milestones can one person pass during the course of one tournament? Well in Serena Williams’ case, quite a few.

And she has quite a few to her name already—an understatement if ever there was one.

The oldest woman to hold the No1 ranking;

Equal first with Steffi Graf in the Open era for singles Grand Slam titles, 22;

Equal first with Chris Evert in the Open era for US Open singles titles, six;

The first woman in the Open era to win 60+ matches in all four Grand Slams;

The oldest player to win a Grand Slam singles title—at 34yrs 9months—with her seventh Wimbledon crown;

The most hard-court Grand Slam singles titles, 12: six in Australia matching her six in New York.

But during her attempt to win a record seventh US single title, Williams is ticking off more new milestones by the day.

When she last rose to the top of the rankings, she was the oldest woman to do so. Three and a half years later, and now just a fortnight away from her 35th birthday, she is still there, and will match Steffi Graf’s WTA record 186 consecutive weeks at the conclusion of the US Open in a few days’ time.

However, that could be the end of her run if Angelique Kerber beats her to the title here. The position come the final on Saturday is still unclear, but suffice to say, should Williams and Kerber meet in the title match, the winner takes all: the US Open trophy and the No1 ranking.

For Williams, winning that trophy has other implications. She could overtake Graf’s Open era record of 22 Majors—though if she needs any further incentive to keep playing tennis, Margaret Court’s all-time record is 24.

But Williams has already achieved a couple of very significant landmarks, here. She set a new women’s Grand Slam match-winning record of 307 with her fourth-round win over Johanna Larson, beating Martina Navratilova, and then set an all-time Grand Slam match-winning record of 308 by beating Yaroslava Shvedova to reach the quarters, and that overtook the men’s record holder, Roger Federer.

She was, rightly, delighted with the news.

“Wow, that’s pretty awesome, and honestly, there’s no better place to do it than here, where everything first started,” she told ESPN on court.

She later added: “I think it’s very significant actually. I think it’s something that just really talks about the length of my career, in particular. I’ve been playing for a really long time, but also, that consistency up there. That’s something that I’m really proud of.”

However, it would be an appropriate climax to the Grand Slam year if the top two women this season contested the final Major and the No1 ranking. After all, they have shared two of the Grand Slams this year already, Kerber beating Williams in Australia and the reverse at Wimbledon.

Kerber faced a tough challenge from last year’s losing finalist, Roberta Vinci, in the first set of their quarter-final. They exchanged early breaks, and then the Italian, using the all-court skill of a fine singles as well as doubles player, got a second break to serve for the first set.

But Kerber’s left-handed power game and ever-growing confidence broke right back, and Vinci lost the set in the most unfortunate manner. A foot-fault on set point, combined with a distraction from the crowd, was Vinci’s downfall, Kerber broke for 7-5, and Vinci’s game fell away.

Kerber raced through the second set, 6-0, and will play one of two unseeded players, Caroline Wozniacki or Anastasija Sevastova, in the semis.

Williams has the unenviable prospect of playing Simona Halep if she is to reach the semis. No5 Halep arrived in New York having won on Bucharest’s clay, then took the Montreal title and made the semis in Cincinnati. She had not taken the easy route through to his meeting with Williams, either, beating Lucie Safarova, Timea Babos, and Carla Suarez Navarro. Halep was, too, a semi-finalist here last year.

The other half of Williams’ draw brings the big-serving No10 seed Karolina Pliskova against the surprise package of the tournament so far, teenager Ana Konjuh. She beat No4 seed Agnieszka Radwanska in just 1hr 19mins, 6-4, 6-4.

Croatian Konjuh, age 18 and ranked 92, was the junior US Open in 2013, and she showed why here, pounding 38 winners and making 30 of her 35 first serves. She also won 13 out of 17 net plays.

But in Pliskova, she plays another fearsome server making her Grand Slam quarter-final debut. The Czech ended Venus Williams campaign in a final set tie-breaker.

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