Williams sisters go forth

Strong efforts by Serena, Venus

Defending champ Serena Williams stayed pumped up during her third-round match against Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez. Defending champ Serena Williams stayed pumped up during her third-round match against Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez. (Chris Mcgrath/Getty Images)
By Howard Fendrich
Associated Press / September 5, 2009

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NEW YORK - Finished with a mostly matter-of-fact victory in the US Open’s third round yesterday, defending champion Serena Williams switched into a yellow T-shirt with this bit of wisdom in blue script: “Can’t spell dynasty without nasty.’’

Asked about it, Williams took the chance to push a sponsor’s new clothing line. Moments later, she found herself discussing her autobiography, though she refrained from shouting: “Available at a bookstore near you!’’

About the only thing Williams doesn’t need to sell anyone on is the quality of her tennis, particularly at Grand Slam tournaments. By beating serve-and-volleying Spaniard Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez, 6-3, 7-5, Williams improved to 28-1 over the past five majors.

The secret to her success?

“You can never underestimate anyone. Some people, some days, they have great days,’’ said the No. 2-seeded Williams, whose sister Venus also won yesterday. “I just go and look at every opponent as the best player in the world.’’

Perhaps some of her colleagues should take that approach, as well.

This has been a topsy-turvy US Open for the women: No. 8 Victoria Azarenka’s 4-6, 6-2, 6-2 loss to No. 26 Francesca Schiavone came a day after No. 4 Elena Dementieva and No. 5 Jelena Jankovic were upset. All told, 11 of the 20 highest-seeded women are gone, and the third round is only halfway done.

“Now there is not a lot of difference between players,’’ Martinez Sanchez said. “I think anyone can win any match.’’

No. 3 Venus Williams, the 2000-01 Open champion, avoided adding to the list of stunning results when she got past 46th-ranked Magdalena Rybarikova of Slovakia, 6-2, 7-5. Next up for the elder Williams: a fourth-round match against Kim Clijsters, who recently came out of retirement and is playing in the tournament for the first time since winning it in 2005.

“She was a great champion,’’ Venus Williams said. “She still is.’’

No. 1 Dinara Safina made it to today’s third round, but barely. She needed more than 4 1/2 hours to get through two three-set victories.

The best men have faced no such problems: No. 3 Rafael Nadal’s 6-0, 3-6, 6-3, 6-4 victory last night in the last match of Day 5 means the men seeded 1-16 all reached the third round at a Grand Slam tournament for the first time in the 41-year Open era.

“There is a gap,’’ said Jurgen Melzer, who lost to No. 6 Juan Martin del Potro 7-6 (8-6), 6-3, 6-3.

The other winners included No. 2 Andy Murray, No. 7 Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and No. 9 Gilles Simon. None of the top 10 men had even dropped a single set - much less lost - until 2008 runner-up Murray’s little slip in his 6-2, 3-6, 6-0, 6-2 win over 87th-ranked Paul Capdeville of Chile yesterday afternoon.

Murray now faces Taylor Dent, a wild-card entry from Newport Beach, Calif., who used to be ranked 21st but missed two years after back surgery and now is 195th. Dent’s impressive comeback continued with a stirring 6-4, 5-7, 6-7 (1-7), 7-5, 7-6 (11-9) victory over 119th-ranked Ivan Navarro of Spain.

They played for more than 4 hours before Dent finally prevailed. He grabbed the chair umpire’s microphone to thank the raucous, partisan crowd for its support, then took a lap around the Grandstand arena, slapping palms with fans.

Earlier, an upset seemed to be in the making, but 135th-ranked Jesse Levine of Boca Raton, Fla., wasted a two-set lead and wound up losing to No. 16 Marin Cilic of Croatia, 4-6, 2-6, 6-0, 6-3, 6-0.

Serena Williams hasn’t had much trouble at all when it comes to the biggest tournaments. She is seeking her fourth championship in the past five Grand Slams, and 12th overall.

There were only fleeting moments when she was not having a good time against the 43d-ranked Martinez Sanchez, including when Williams took a tumble to the blue court. She also was broken twice early in the second set, falling behind, 3-1.

But Williams got back on serve, then broke to take a 6-5 lead after a 22-point game that closed with consecutive double-faults by Martinez Sanchez.

Serena Williams now faces No. 22 Daniela Hantuchova, who beat American Vania King, 6-2, 6-2. Other winners included No. 7 Vera Zvonareva, No. 10 Flavia Pennetta, No. 18 Li Na, and No. 26 Francesca Schiavone.