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Serena Williams advances to first Grand Slam quarterfinal of the year

Dizzy in heat, Bouchard out of upset-heavy US Open

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Serena Williams, of the United States, reacts after a point against Kaia Kanepi, of Estonia, during the fourth round of the 2014 U.S. Open tennis tournament, Monday, Sept. 1, 2014, in New York. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)

The deejay at Arthur Ashe Stadium seemed to hit play at the exact second Serena Williams closed out her fourth-round match on Monday, defeating Kaia Kanepi 6-3, 6-3. 

“I am the champion, you’re gonna hear me roar,” streamed through the speakers as Williams raised her right arm in the air and pumped her fist. She’s a five-time champion here, and in the stifling heat of Monday afternoon, she came one step closer to a sixth title.

After meeting Kanepi on the net, Williams turned to the crowd and pumped her fist more than a dozen times, looking as happy as 17-year-old qualifier Belinda Bencic did when she advanced to the quarterfinals last night. It was a first-time experience for Bencic, but is almost routine for Williams – she’s advanced to the quarterfinals in 11 of her 14 previous appearances here.

But 2014 has been a strange season for the veteran. She fell in the fourth round at the Australian Open, the secondat Roland Garros and the thirdat Wimbledon. She answered some of the critics by playing well in the lead-up to the Open, but clearly still had something to prove.

And so, as she finished the match and sealed her place in a Grand Slam quarterfinal for the first time this year, she looked downright jubilant. 

“I did it!” she exclaimed during her on-court interview, smiling at the crowd and adding that she was so happy it happened in New York. She added that she never felt nervous during the match.

“I figured no matter what, I was still in doubles,” she said, eliciting laughter from the remaining fans.

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Serena, left, and Venus Williams slap hands between points against Garbine Muguruza and Carla Suarez Navarro, of Spain, during a doubles match at the ...

Serena, left, and Venus Williams slap hands between points against Garbine Muguruza and Carla Suarez Navarro, of …

Williams has played nearly every day this week, as she and sister Venus Williams continue to advance in the women’s doubles draw. They’ll play again tomorrow, facing Ekaterina Makarova and Elena Vesnina in the quarterfinals.

That means Williams will not have much time to rest before her singles quarterfinal, but neither will her opponent, 11th-seeded Flavia Pennetta of Italy. After defeating Casey Dellacqua 7-5, 6-2 in singles on Monday afternoon, Pennetta and doubles partner Martina Hingis won their third round match. 

This is the fifth time Pennetta has advanced to the singles' quarterfinals here. The first time, in 2009, Williams defeated her in straight sets as she marched to the title. In six meetings, the only time Pennetta won was in 2005, and that was with a walkover.

Despite the record, Williams isn’t predicting an easy match.

“I think the older she gets, the better she plays, to be honest. It is not an easy matchup for me,” Williams said in her news conference.

Before she thinks about that, though, she’ll continue to revel in the fact that she seems to have put her 2014 demons behind her.

“I never thought it would be so exciting [to advance to a quarterfinal],” she said. “It feels good. Obviously I don't want this to end. But I'm just happy that I'm able to be performing a little better at the end of the year.”

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