Miami: S. Williams d. Vandeweghe
It’s not often, or perhaps ever, that Serena Williams asks the woman she has just beaten to play doubles with her in the future, the way she did today. Then again, it’s not often that the woman she has just beaten has a serve as potent as Coco Vandeweghe’s. Serena said she was just hoping to get her racquet on her fellow Californian’s first serve; once she did, though, Williams didn’t have to do a whole lot more. In her best performance of the tournament so far, she mostly cruised over Vandeweghe 6-3, 6-1.
But while this match didn't qualify as “closer than the scores indicated,” it had its competitive moments. Vandeweghe saved four break points in the first set and, taking her returns early and going for broke, earned two break points on Serena at 4-2. Unlike most of Williams’s opponents, Vandeweghe is explosive enough to avoid getting run over by her. But there wasn’t much she could do with the two strong serves that Serena produced to save those break points. Two games later, at 5-3, Vandeweghe again extended Williams to deuce, but Serena came up with two more good second serves to hold for the set. Serena saved all six break points she faced on the day.
Vandeweghe’s dilemma was how to stay aggressive against Williams without overhitting. In the second set, she tipped toward the latter, as her first serve and big topspin forehand began to misfire—Coco would make just 46 percent of first deliveries for the match, and win less than half of the points played on her second serve. At the same time, Serena loosened up and began to find the corners. By 1-4, the only advice Vandeweghe’s coach could come up with during their sideline chat was to make something “spectacular” happen. It didn’t happen.
Serena, playing better now, moves on to the quarterfinals, where she’ll face Angelique Kerber. Williams is 3-1 against the German. We'll wait to see how serious Serena was about her doubles offer with Coco; sister Venus might still have something to say about that.