When Serena Williams defeated Maria Sakkari at the U.S. Open on Monday, Sept. 7, she accomplished three things at once: She qualified for the tournament’s quarterfinals, she also redeemed herself after losing to Sakkari two weeks ago, and by achieving her 100th career victory at Arthur Ashe Stadium, Williams made history.
She beat Sakkari 6-3, 6-7 (6), 6-3, and there were no fans in attendance at the Queens, New York, venue because of the coronavirus. The tennis star’s milestone victory at the stadium puts her far ahead of Roger Federer, who’s won at Arthur Ashe 77 times.
Ashe was the first Black man to win a Grand Slam tournament, taking home the trophy in 1968 at the first U.S. Open of the modern era — when pro players were allowed to compete in the previously amateurs-only tournament — which some might say makes Williams’ record even more significant since she’s Black. Arthur Ashe Stadium is also considered to be one of the most prestigious places to play in the world.
The mother of one, who lost to Sakkari at the Western & Southern Open last month, said playing in an empty stadium didn’t affect her much since she relies on her training.
“I’m always going to bring that fire and that passion and that Serena to the court,” Williams explained after her fourth-round victory. “I don’t feel like I’m super different without a crowd, but I’m super passionate. This is my job. This is what I wake up to do. This is what I train to do 365 days of the year.”
In her post-match interview, Sakkari explained why she wasn’t able to beat Williams as she did at the Western & Southern Open.
“I think we both played a high-level match,” Sakkari told reporters. “But I have to be deadly honest, I wasn’t brave enough in the third set. I kind of, like, not choked, but didn’t get my chances, and if you don’t get the chances with a good Serena against you, it’s done.”
Williams’ victory against the Greek player put her into a Grand Slam quarterfinal for the 53rd time. On Wednesday, Sept. 9, she’ll take on Bulgaria’s Tsvetana Pironkova.