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Serena pushed to three sets, escapes major scare at U.S. Open

By
Doug G. Ware
Serena Williams hits a backhand in the first set of her match against Bethanie Mattek-Sands in the third round in Arthur Ashe Stadium on day five at the US Open Tennis Championships at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in New York City on September 4, 2015. Serena Williams is trying to become the first woman to win the Tennis Grand Slam since Steffi Graf in 1988. Photo by John Angelillo/UPI
Serena Williams hits a backhand in the first set of her match against Bethanie Mattek-Sands in the third round in Arthur Ashe Stadium on day five at the US Open Tennis Championships at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in New York City on September 4, 2015. Serena Williams is trying to become the first woman to win the Tennis Grand Slam since Steffi Graf in 1988. Photo by John Angelillo/UPI | License Photo

FLUSHING MEADOWS, N.Y., Sept. 4 (UPI) -- That was a close call.

Top-ranked women's player Serena Williams nearly saw her dream of achieving the first calendar-year Grand Slam in nearly 30 years go up in smoke at the U.S. Open Tennis Championships Friday night.

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Williams started slow out of the gate in her night match at Arthur Ashe Stadium Friday, losing the first set 3-6 to fellow American Bethanie Mattek-Sands -- committing 14 unforced errors to Mattek-Sands' one.

"I just felt I couldn't really get a rhythm," Williams said of the first set after the match. "Knowing that I have another level and I can play better helps."

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The six-time U.S. Open champion continued to fight off a hard-charging Mattek-Sands in the second set, as well -- but ultimately evened the match by winning set two, 7-5. Williams put Mattek-Sands away with a dominant third set, winning 6-0.

Williams is four match victories away from her seventh U.S. Open trophy, which would also win her the coveted Grand Slam -- titles at all four major tennis tournaments in the same calendar year. No player has won a calendar Slam since Steffi Graf in 1988.

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Next up for Williams is another American, 19th-seeded Madison Keys -- who knocked off 15th-seeded Agnieszka Radwanska (Poland) in straight sets Friday.

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"She's really good ... She's on a roll right now. We'll see what happens," Serena said.

Williams' sister Venus also continued to roll at the Open, notching an upset over 12th-seeded Belinda Bencic, 6-3 6-4. If she defeats Estonian Anett Kontaveit on Monday -- and Serena beats Keys -- the sisters will meet in the U.S. Open semifinals.

Meanwhile, men's top seed Novak Djokovic again advanced Friday with another straight-set victory over 25th-seeded Andreas Seppi. The Serbian champion, who's looking for his second title in New York, has yet to drop a set at the tournament so far.

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Djokovic will face Spaniard Roberto Bautista Agut, who beat 14th-seeded David Goffin Friday, in the fourth round.

Croatian Marin Cilic, last year's men's champion, was pushed to five sets again during his match Friday -- ultimately defeating Mikhail Kukushkin for a spot in the fourth round.

Tournament Notes

- 8th-seeded Rafael Nadal played Italy's Fabio Fognini in the men's night match Friday.

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- 7-seed David Ferrer (Spain) was upset Friday by Frenchman Jeremy Chardy (7-6, 4-6, 6-3, 6-1)

- 18th-seeded Spaniard Feliciano Lopez defeated 10-seed Milos Raonic (Canada), 6-2, 7-6, 6-3

- 3-seed Andy Murray (Britain) is once again scheduled for the men's night match Saturday, after needing a furious 2-sets-to-none comeback to beat France's Adrian Mannarino Thursday night.

- 13th-seeded American John Isner will try for a spot in the fourth round against Czech Jiri Vesely on Saturday.

- The only other American men's player remaining, Donald Young, will play Serbian Viktor Troicki Saturday for a spot in the fourth round.

- 21 of 32 seeded men's players remain in the tournament. Just 15 of 32 remain in the women's draw.

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