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A day later, Serena Williams powers into US Open's 3rd round, joined by 4 other Americans
NEW YORK (AP) ' Neither her words nor her play indicated that Serena Williams was distracted one bit Thursday at the U.S. Open.
She would have been forgiven if they had, of course, given that sister Venus withdrew from the tournament 24 hours earlier and revealed a recently diagnosed immune system disease.
Focused as ever, Serena absolutely overwhelmed Michaella Krajicek of the Netherlands 6-0, 6-1 to reach the third round, showing precisely why many consider her the favorite to win a fourth championship at Flushing Meadows and 14th Grand Slam title overall.
How hard was it to set aside Venus' situation?
"It really wasn't that difficult, to be honest. I mean, she wants me to do the best; she wouldn't want me to suffer," Serena said. "So now, if anything, it should motivate me more."
If that's so, look out. She's won 14 matches in a row and 29 of her last 30 on hard courts. On Thursday, she hit 10 aces, erased the only break point she faced, compiled a 25-5 edge in winners and made only 10 unforced errors in a powerful display that lasted all of 49 minutes.
"Did you guys see the match? Or was it too quick?" Krajicek asked reporters.
"Sometimes when you're on the court against her, you just think, 'OK, she misses a few balls.' ... But she doesn't miss a lot. It's just tough to keep the same level as her," said Krajicek, the younger sister of 1996 Wimbledon champion Richard Krajicek. "I mean, nobody hits as hard as her. Nobody. Not even her sister."
Venus, who won the U.S. Open in 2000 and 2001, said in an interview Thursday with ABC's "Good Morning America" that she "absolutely" plans to return to tennis and is relieved, after years of misdiagnosis, to know exactly what's been making her feel "debilitating" fatigue.
"I know she's a fighter, and she's really strong. She's great," Serena said. "I think she's really happy now that she knows what it is, after all this time."
While no one was surprised to see the 28th-seeded Serena move on ' her ranking dropped after she missed nearly a year with her own series of health scares ' she was joined by a larger-than-lately contingent of countrywomen. Two Americans ranked outside the top 100, 18-year-old Sloane Stephens and 21-year-old Vania King, knocked off seeded players to give the host country five women in the third round for the first time since 2004, when eight made it.
"We're ready to go to the top, baby," a smiling Stephens said, clapping three times for emphasis.
The 106th-ranked Stephens, who lives in California, beat 23rd-seeded Shahar Peer of Israel 6-1, 7-6 (4). Stephens, who hit one ace at 119 mph, never won a Grand Slam match until this week, is the youngest woman left in the draw, and already has plans for her prize money.
"Now I know for sure when I get home after the season's over, I'm getting a car. That's the only thing I'm really looking forward to now," she said. "My mom wants me to get a truck. I want to get a small car. It's very confusing."
Two years ago, when she was 16 and playing in the U.S. Open junior tournament, Stephens left New York to attend the funeral of her father, 1988 NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year John M. Stephens, in Louisiana, then flew back that night and played a match the next morning.
"The emotions and everything was crazy," Stephens said. "For me, today was really crazy, as well. But it's totally different."
The 103rd-ranked King, a 22-year-old who splits time between Florida and California, eliminated No. 29 Jarmila Gajdosova of Australia 6-2, 6-0.
Now things get even tougher: For a spot in the fourth round, Stephens will face 2008 French Open champion and former No. 1 Ana Ivanovic of Serbia on Saturday, while King takes on current No. 1 Caroline Wozniacki of Denmark.
Ivanovic advanced when her opponent, Petra Cetkovska, withdrew because of a quadriceps injury. Wozniacki lost her serve in the opening game, then rolled off 12 of the next 13 to defeat Arantxa Rus 6-2, 6-0 on Thursday night.
"I'm American, so I know I'll get some support out there," King said. "But she's No. 1 in the world, so she will, too."
Serena, meanwhile, will take on No. 4 Victoria Azarenka, who beat Gisela Dulko of Argentina 6-4, 6-3.
The other two American women are in action Friday, with 19-year-old Christina McHale meeting No. 25 Maria Kirilenko of Russia in Arthur Ashe Stadium at night, and 21-year-old Falconi taking on No. 22 Sabine Lisicki of Germany.
The highest-seeded U.S. man, No. 8 Mardy Fish, got to the third round for a third consecutive appearance in the U.S. Open by beating Tunisian qualifier Malek Jaziri 6-2, 6-2, 6-4.
"I haven't really been tested that much. I can't do anything about that," said Fish, who has dropped 13 games through two matches. "I can't do anything about who I come up against."
Not much Dudi Sela could have done Thursday, eight. His task? Facing 16-time major champion Roger Federer. The result? Federer won 6-3, 6-2, 6-2, taking 52 of 60 points on his serve.
After giving Sela a lesson, Federer offered one to fans in Arthur Ashe Stadium and watching on television. Prompted during his on-court interview to offer some serving tips, Federer did, talking about the ball toss and keeping his elbow high.
"It's tough to play him, especially when you're not at your best and on center court," Sela said. "On Court 25, maybe I'd have a bigger chance. I had no chance."
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