NEW YORK – With all that's at stake for Serena Williams at this year's U.S. Open, it can be difficult to discuss sister Venus Williams without mentioning her sibling in the next breath. So it might be tempting to examine No. 23 Venus’s 6–3, 6–4 U.S. Open third-round victory over No. 12 Belinda Bencic on Friday merely in the context of her younger sister.
By virtue of beating Bencic, Venus eliminated one of the two players that have managed to beat Serena this year. Venus’s win also moves her one step closer to a quarterfinals showdown with Serena, which would be the fifth meeting between the siblings at Flushing Meadows but perhaps the most consequential, with Venus standing in Serena’s path to a calendar Grand Slam and her 22nd Grand Slam title.
But considering Venus only as she relates to Serena diminishes Venus’s greatness, which was on full display during her masterful straight-sets victory over Bencic at Arthur Ashe Stadium. After winning the first set 6-3, Venus fell behind in the second set 4-1. But she proceeded to win the next five games to eliminate one of the sport’s most talented young stars.
The win advances the 35-year-old to the fourth round of the U.S. Open for the first time since 2010. Her performance was vintage Venus: Despite facing a barrage of powerful groundstrokes from her 18-year-old opponent, she deftly covered the court and struck the ball with the force and precision that defined her best years. She recorded 31 winners to Bencic’s 12, and limited her unforced errors to just 15.
Bencic played quite well, avoiding mistakes and playing aggressive. But Venus, a two-time U.S. Open champion, was unassailable.
Bencic, who was born in 1997—just a few months before Venus made the U.S. Open final for the first time—struggled to read Williams’s serve. Williams won 83% of first serve points and only allowed Bencic one break point. The loss dropped Bencic to 0-4 in her career against Venus.
“I tried to fight, to hang in there and to play my game, but I really don’t have so much time against her to do it,” Bencic said after the match. “I tried to start the rallies with her, but it’s very tough when she goes for her shots all the time.”
Bencic’s defeat ends a spectacular summer for the Swiss teen, who beat four top 10 players—including a 3–6, 7–5, 6–4 win over No. 1 Serena—at last month’s Rogers Cup on her way to winning the event.
With a quarterfinals meeting between the Williams sisters becoming a stronger possibility, Bencic declined to say which player would have the upper hand. And though Venus will have to win her fourth-round match against qualifier Anett Kontaveit to reach the quarterfinals, she acknowledged that a possible match with Serena has been on her mind.
“Of course I have thought about it, and I would like us to have that moment so we can see how it is,” Venus said. “We both have to get there. I think we both have a great opportunity to do so, but there are no givens.”
The elder Williams was coy about whether her younger sister gave her any advice about playing Bencic.
“That’s between us,” she said, smiling. “I think it worked.”