Williams closed out the match with four straight serves that Ivanovic couldn’t get back – clocked at between 99 and 111 mph – in a blustery Arthur Ashe Stadium that had both players fighting with their tosses and topspin all day.
Seeded only 28th after missing big chunks of the last two years with injuries to her foot, Williams nonetheless improved to 16-0 this year on hardcourt. She has yet to drop a set at the US Open and now finds herself in her first Grand Slam quarter-final since last year at Wimbledon, when she won her 13th major title.
Shortly after that victory, Williams stepped on broken glass in a restaurant, which triggered a long stretch of injuries and medical problems.
“A couple months ago, I wasn’t expecting to be here,” she said in her on-court interview after the match. “I feel honoured. Like I say every time, every match is a bonus. No matter what happens, it’s so exciting for me.”
No. 16 Ivanovic, the 2008 French Open champion and a one-time world No. 1, is on the rebound after a slide down the rankings into the 60s. At times against Williams, flashes of the old Ivanovic showed, especially when she drew back to 3-3 in the first set after dropping the first three games in eight minutes.
Taking the ball early, unafraid to step inside the baseline to return Williams’ second serves, Ivanovic was the aggressor during that portion and in parts of the second set when she tried, unsuccessfully, to make up the break she lost in the first game.
No answer for Williams
But she couldn’t overcome eight double faults, including three while serving at 3-4 in the first set, and didn’t have an answer for Williams who was less aggressive (16 winners to 20 for Ivanovic), but more consistent (14 unforced errors to 29) and also had more bite on her serve (nine aces).
“My serve broke down a little more than hers,” Ivanovic said. “I still created lots of opportunities and I felt I was stepping up a lot and I just felt that was the biggest difference today.”
Next up for Williams is No. 17 Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, who made it to her second Grand Slam quarter-final with a 5-7, 6-3, 6-4 win over former French Open champion Francesca Schiavone.
The three-set match included 16 service breaks over 31 games and appropriately enough, ended when Pavlyuchenkova hit a forehand winner on match point to break Schiavone’s serve for the ninth time. The players combined for 21 double faults.
“I’m going to say that I don’t want to go out there and enjoy just being on centre court playing against Serena,” Pavlyuchenkova said. “I would like to do well, try to fight and with my effort, I’ll try to beat her.”
In other early play, 20th-seeded Janko Tipsarevic outlasted 2003 French champion Juan Carlos Ferrero 7-5, 5-7, 7-5, 6-2 in a match that took three hours, 43 minutes.