She used to engage in that sort of film work, Williams said, but “it was so painful; it was like stabbing myself.”
So even though Williams knew her third-round opponent at the U.S. Open would be the same woman she lost to at the Australian Open, preparing by studying a replay of that January defeat simply was out of the question.
Did not seem to matter at all.
After splitting Saturday’s first eight games against 42nd-ranked Ekaterina Makarova of Russia, the fourth-seeded Williams got into high gear and breezed to a 6-4, 6-0 victory, reeling off the last eight games in a row.
“Definitely was motivated. Knowing that I lost; could definitely happen again. Did not want that to happen,” said Williams, who hit 13 aces to raise her tour-leading total this season to 408.
“I really hate watching matches that I lose, unless I’m punishing myself,” added the 14-time Grand Slam champion. “I didn’t punish myself.”
She hasn’t been losing much lately.
Since the only first-round Grand Slam exit of her career, against 111th-ranked Virginie Razzano at the French Open on May 29, Williams is 22-1 in singles, including the title at Wimbledon and gold medal at the London Olympics.
That sort of excellence sure saves money for clothes: Williams said she threw out all of the dresses she brought to Paris to wear during matches there.
No such problems so far in New York, where Williams has dropped only 12 games entering her fourth-round match against 82nd-round Andrea Hlavackova of Czech Republic. Hlavackova, the 2011 French Open doubles champion, bawled on court after her 5-7, 6-4, 6-4 win over 14th-seededMaria Kirilenko, whose boyfriend, Washington Capitals star Alex Ovechkin, was in New York to cheer for her.
The woman Williams beat in the Wimbledon final, second-seeded Agnieszka Radwanska, dealt with the 90-degree heat and former No. 1 Jelena Jankovic with equal aplomb during a 6-3, 7-5 victory.
“I was melting there,” Radwanska said. “I survived the match.”
She wasn’t the only one who felt that way.
Olympic champion Andy Murray, still seeking his first Grand Slam title after four losses in finals, eked out a 7-6 (5), 7-6 (5), 4-6, 7-6 (4) victory over No. 30 Feliciano Lopez, who led in each of the three tiebreakers before faltering.
“Could have gone either way,” Murray acknowledged. “It was very hot and humid in the middle part of the match. I was struggling a bit with that.”
The man he beat for the gold at the Summer Games, and lost to in the Wimbledon title match, Roger Federer, is also Murray’s potential semifinal opponent in New York. Federer, as is often the case, barely was bothered Saturday while dismissing No. 25 Fernando Verdasco 6-3, 6-4, 6-4.
Five of Federer’s record 17 Grand Slam titles came at Flushing Meadows, and he’s sure looking capable of adding to those numbers.
“He didn’t give me many chances with his serve,” observed Verdasco, who held only one break point and failed to convert it.
Federer also was pretty good at the net, winning 26 of the 27 points when he moved forward. He next will take on No. 23 Mardy Fish, who needed to set aside 75 unforced errors over more than 3 hours to beat No. 16 Gilles Simon 6-1, 5-7, 7-6 (5), 6-3 in a match that ended after 1 a.m. Sunday.
Asked in an on-court interview what he’ll need to do to beat Federer and reach the quarterfinals, Fish said: “I have no idea right now, to be honest. A lot more than I did today, but we’ll try to rest as best we can and see what we can do.”
They didn’t start their match until past 10 p.m. Saturday night, after No. 1 Ana Ivanovic overcame a poor start, 56 unforced errors and a partisan crowd to beat 19-year-old American Sloane Stephens 6-7 (4), 6-4, 6-2. Ivanovic also eliminated Stephens in the third round at Flushing Meadows a year ago.
Murray gets No. 15 Milos Raonic, who hit his 29th ace of the day, and 89th of the week, to cap a 6-3, 6-0, 7-6 (3) victory against 32-year-old American wild-card entry James Blake.
Other men winning Saturday included No. 11 Nicolas Almagro, who ended the run of 19-year-old American Jack Sock 7-6 (3), 6-7 (4), 7-6 (2), 6-1 and now will play 2010 Wimledon runner-up Tomas Berdych, a four-set winner over No. 27 Sam Querrey; No. 12 Marin Cilic, who defeated No. 17 Kei Nishikori; and 50th-ranked Martin Klizan of Slovakia, who beat No. 32 Jeremy Chardy.
On Saturday against Makarova, things were even at 4-all in the first set, before Williams held serve to go up 5-4. In the next game, Williams broke the left-handed Makarova for the first time to take the opening set and seize control in Arthur Ashe Stadium.
At 15-all, Williams hit a backhand winner down the line. Then she earned a set point with big forehand to a corner that allowed her to put away a swinging backhand volley winner. And when Makarova pushed a down-the-line forehand long to cap the set, Williams let out a loud, excited yell of “Come on!”
Beginning to put the match out of reach, Williams got another break point the next time Makarova served with a reflex forehand volley passing shot off an overhead, and followed up with a strong backhand approach that her opponent couldn’t handle. That made it 2-0 in the second set, and Williams’ older sister, seven-time major champion Venus, applauded from her seat in the stands.
In all, Williams won 32 of 40 points on her serve and never faced a break point.
By the time it was over, she also held a 31-10 edge in winners, moving a step closer to adding a fourth U.S. Open trophy to the ones she won in 1999, 2002 and 2008.
The last time these two women played each other, it wasn’t close, either. The difference, surprisingly, was that Makarova won 6-2, 6-3 in the fourth round in Melbourne. She got plenty of help from seven double-faults and 37 total unforced errors by Williams, who joked that day, “Maybe I should have started serving lefty.”
That loss remains the only one for Williams in 22 Grand Slam matches against lefties.
“She served so much better than she did in Australia. So when she’s serving that good, it’s really tough to play against her,” Makarova said. “I knew she would start aggressive, because that’s how it is anytime she loses and she really wants to beat someone.”
After Saturday’s victory in the rematch, Williams, who turns 31 this month, was asked during an on-court interview about decisions by her contemporaries Andy Roddick, 30, and Kim Clijsters, 29, to quit professional tennis after the U.S. Open.
“I’m nowhere near close to retiring,” Williams replied, drawing a roar of approval from the crowd. “I can’t leave you guys. I love this sport way too much, and now that Andy and Kim are done, I feel that I need to stay out here for the tennis. I’m not going anywhere.”
The four-time major champion and former No. 1-ranked player headed into retirement after she and Bob Bryan lost their second-round mixed doubles match against Makarova and Bruno Soares. Clijsters announced months ago the U.S. Open would be her last tournament, and she already was out of singles and women’s doubles.
Clijsters bid adieu to the sport with her husband and 4-year-old daughter sitting in the stands at Court 17.
“I’ve been telling her I’m going to be home a lot when this tournament is completely done,” Clijsters said. “I don’t think she understands the meaning of the word ‘retirement.'”