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Venus eases Serena’s path, Djokovic rolls at Open


New York:  Venus Williams eliminated the highest-rated rival in her sister Serena’s path to the US Open final while Novak Djokovic powered into the fourth round.

Williams yesterday upheld family honour in defeating 12th-seeded Swiss teen Belinda Bencic 6-3, 6-4.

Bencic inflicted the most recent defeat upon top-ranked Serena Williams in a Toronto semi-final last month, but fell to 0-4 against Venus.

Venus, 35, fired 31 winners against 15 unforced errors while Bencic, 18, had 12 of each.

“I just wanted to be aggressive,” Venus said. “Keeping the errors down really helped me close out the match.”

On the men’s side, Djokovic moved a step closer to his 10th career Slam crown and third of the year by defeating Italy’s Andreas Seppi 6-3, 7-5, 7-5.

It was his 30th win in a row over Italian foes, 11 of them against Seppi, since losing to Filippo Volandri in his ATP debut at Umag in 2004.

“It was a tough three sets,” Djokovic said. “Just hanging in there. Be patient for your opportunities. You try to cash in when they come.”

Spanish eighth seed Rafael Nadal, a 14-time Grand Slam champion on a quarter-final collision course with Djokovic, meets Italian 32nd seed Fabio Fognini later.

And Croatia’s Marin Cilic barely escaped making the earliest exit of any defending champion since 1999 before outlasting 56th-ranked Kazak Mikhail Kukushkin 6-7 (5/7), 7-6 (7/1), 6-3, 6-7 (3/7), 6-1.

Venus Williams, seeded 23rd, advanced to a fourth-round match against 152nd-ranked Estonian teen qualifier Anett Kontaveit and could face her sister Serena in the quarter-finals.

“I hope we both get to the quarter-finals,” Venus said.

Serena, who holds all four Grand Slam titles, continues her quest for more tennis history when she faces 101st-ranked fellow American Bethanie Mattek-Sands later in Arthur Ashe Stadium.

Williams is trying to complete the first calendar Grand Slam since Steffi Graf in 1988 and only the fourth ever while also seeking her 22nd career Slam singles crown, matching Graf’s Open Era record and two shy of Australian Margaret Court’s all-time mark.

This could be the first Grand Slam event in which Serena reaches the final without facing a top-10 opponent.

Venus broke Bencic in the eighth game and held on her fourth ace to take the first set in 33 minutes, having blasted 16 winners to only four by Bencic.

Bencic broke for a 3-1 lead when Venus sent a forehand long but Venus responded with a forehand winner to break back in the seventh game and broke again in the ninth before ending matters with her fifth ace after 78 minutes.

“She played very aggressive,” Bencic said. “It was difficult for me to put any pressure on her serve. I tried to fight and hang in there against her but it’s very tough when she goes for her shots all the time.”

Djokovic surrendered his first two service breaks of the tournament but dispatched Seppi after two hours and 28 minutes.

Next up is either Spain’s Roberto Bautista Agut and Belgium’s David Goffin.

Not since Andre Agassi lost to Arnaud Clement in the 1999 second round had a men’s champion been ousted before the fourth round but ninth seed Cilic barely escaped that fate.

Cilic fought back after losing the first set and having to save two set points in the 12th game of the second to reach a last-16 date with either Spanish seventh seed David Ferrer or French 27th seed Jeremy Chardy.

“It wasn’t easy but I stayed together and got it done,” Cilic said.

France’s Benoit Paire reached his first Grand Slam fourth round with a 7-6 (7/3), 6-1, 6-1 victory over Spain’s Tommy Robredo. He next faces countryman Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, who ousted Ukraine’s Sergiy Stakhovsky 6-3, 7-5, 6-2.

Russian 13th seed Ekaterina Makarova fought off cramping to oust Ukraine 17th seed Elina Svitolina 6-3, 7-5 and is now the top-ranked rival in the Williams half of the draw.

Makarova, playing with a taped upper right leg, began cramping while serving at match point. Told she could not see a trainer until a changeover, she fought on and advanced on a forehand winner.

“I was scared,” Makarova said. “It’s the first time I was cramping. She told me she can’t treat me until the changeover. I kept playing and kept trying.”

A Grand Slam record 12 men have retired from matches at this tournament with two women quitting during matches as well, many from heat-related cramping issues.

Makarova will next face France’s Kristina Mladenovic, on her best Grand Slam run after a 6-2, 6-3 winner over Russian lucky loser Daria Kasatkina.

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