An error from Sloane Stephens handed Serena Williams a match point chance, with the six-time tournament winner completing a 2-6, 6-2, 6-2 comeback into the fourth round of the US Open on Saturday.
Williams last won her 23rd Grand Slam singles title in 2017 and has missed out on four additional finals at the majors to try and beat the record held for half a century by Margaret Court.
With the women’s field at the locked-down, no-fan New York event, that chance might never come again for the 38-year-old.
Williams claimed the battle of former tournament champions – Stephens won it in 2017 – after a battle of one and three-quarter hours.
“It brings out the best of my fitness when I play Sloane,” Williams said. “It was intense, we always have some incredible matches.”
Williams improved to 6-1 in the series with her compatriot; Stephens had won their previous three meetings.
Williams took her record 104th match win in New York, she swept 10 of the last 12 games against Stephens..
Greek 15th seed Maria Sakkari took advantage of 22 unforced errors from teenaged US Open opponent, Amanda Anisimova to earn a 6-3, 6-1 win into the second week.
The 25-year-old winner needed less than an hour to advance to her second Grand Slam fourth round of the season after Australian in January.
Sakkari won her second third round match at a major against seven career losses.
“I needed that straight-set win, I had some tough matches in the beginning of the tournament,” sakkarisaid.
“My body needed that. It was good to get off court quickly. I think I played great, super solid and served well.
“I came up with some good shots when I had to, I’m very happy with my performance.”
The winner is the first from her Mediterranean nation to reach the second week here since Eleni Daniilidou in 2004 and just the second in the Open era.
Sakkari lost only four points on serve in the opening set of her 55-minute success.
Belgian 16th seed Elise Mertens beat American No. 124 Caty McNally, winning 13 of the last 16 games in a 7-5, 6-1 victory.
Mertens claimed her 2nd match win of his virus-interrupted season, levelling in that category with Elena Rybakina.
Tsvetana Pironkova, back from a three-year maternity layoff from tennis, continued her current hot streak, beating Croat Donna Vekic 6-4, 6-1.
That win came after she defeated former No. 1 Garbine Muguruza earlier in the week.