SERENA WILLIAMS strolled out in her Sunday best and edged closer to history – but didn’t have it all her own way.
The 23-time Grand Slam winning legend was rocking a frilly lavender tutu dress and looked like she was heading to a party rather than trying to book a place in the US Open quarter-finals.
But even if the 36-year-old would have been wearing jeans and a t-shirt, no-one would have bet against her reaching the last eight on Tuesday.
Now she’s just three matches from equalling Australian Margaret Court’s record major tally of 24.
Estonia’s Kaia Kanepi, who dumped world No1 Simona Halep out in the first round, proved a tough nut to crack, especially after being brutally dismantled for a bagel in the first set.
Yet Williams powered on and got the job done.
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She may have made 22 unforced errors compared to Kanepi’s 18 but hit more than twice the amount of winners (47 -22) and won an impressive 81 per cent of first-serve points.
She will meet world No8 Karolina Pliskova on Tuesday for a place in the semi-finals.
The American star said: “It wasn’t easy at all. She has had a lot of big wins and we always have tough matches.
“I was just pleased to get through it. I have improved my fitness, coming back from a having a baby is harder than I thought.
“I needed to get fit and I am pleased where I am at. I just need to keep it up and keep going.”
Williams was keen to get the job done early and stormed out the blocks.
With just 18 minutes on the clock, Kanepi was left wondering what had hit her.
Yet Kanepi, who won just six points in that opening blowout, regrouped brilliantly. The Estonian stayed composed and posed plenty of questions in the second set.
The 33-year-old was a double break up and although Williams hit back, it wasn’t enough.
Two set points went begging for Kanepi but the third was taken. It was the first time the world No44 had ever taken a set off Serena in four previous meetings.
All of a sudden, it was game very much on. Williams made six unforced errors in the first three games of the second. Incredibly she made just two in the opener.
Holding serve in the first game of the decider saw Williams scrap like crazy to hold her serve.
When she scorched home the winner, a wild, ear-splitting roar showed just how much it meant – and how much the pressure was really beginning to build.
The vital break soon followed. Now could she relax and ease home?
Well, not entirely. Kanepi was hanging in there but her doggedness was just delaying the inevitable.
Williams eventually did close out the victory with a hold, sealing it in one hour 36 minutes to set up that mouth-watering quarter-final clash with Pliskova on Tuesday.