When the draw was made for the U.S. Open, Serena Williams saw that she would have to go through her sister Venus in the quarterfinals to complete a journey to a fourth straight Open title and a calendar year Grand Glam.
Serena Williams, after beating Madison Keys to advance to the quarterfinals, made it clear that her sister Venus was her most formidable opponent.
"For me, I'm playing the best player in the tournament, and that's never easy," Serena said then. "She's beaten me so many times. I've taken a lot of losses off her, more than anybody. She knows how to win, knows how to beat me, and knows my weaknesses better than anyone."
Venus tried hard Tuesday night, but she didn't have enough at the end and Serena's history-making march goes on. Serena won, 6-2, 1-6, 6-3, the score line not indicative of the quality and tenseness of the match. When it was done, Serena was relieved she had beaten her fiercest competitor.
"She's the toughest player I ever played in my life and the best person I know," Serena said. "Holding serve in the third set is all I can do. I was on the defensive, she was hitting so hard."
It was a night, and a matchup, befitting a Grand Slam final with A-list celebs -- Donald Trump, Oprah Winfrey, Gladys Knight, Kim Kardashian, Kendall Jenner, Star Jones, etc. -- and a sellout Arthur Ashe crowd ready to rock and roll.
There were heavy Williams shots being played -- big serves and heavy ground strokes and the sisters' guttural sounds of being toe to toe. But most rallies were short and the crowd couldn't find its momentum when Serena won the first set with relative ease.
Venus was on the back foot to begin with, having to fend off a break point in the first game. But by the fifth game, Serena was making inroads and broke Venus the first time, then broke her again in the seventh game on the way to taking the set.
Things got livelier in the second set when Venus suddenly turned things around. She broke Serena in the fourth game, the break coming when Serena double-faulted. The confidence of Serena's efficient first-set win seemed to ebb, and then Venus served out the next game at love. Big sister was on top, and she broke Serena in the next game on the way to evening the match.
Serena ran out to a 3-0 lead in the third set, breaking Venus in the second game. Venus had a break point in the third game but Serena thundered a couple of serves to swat the threat away and Venus couldn't dent that serve the rest of the way.
This was the 27th time the sisters played each other. Their rivalry in championship tennis goes back to the 1998 Australian Open, a match won by Venus. Their all-time head-to-head record is 16-11 in favor of Serena. Serena holds a 6-2 advantage in Grand Slam finals and an overall 9-5 in the Slams.
Venus' road to the quarterfinal was considerably more difficult than Serena's. Her first-round match against Monica Puig went three sets and took 2:40. She also defeated rising Swiss star Belinda Bencic, the 12th seed, in a convincing two-set match that seemed to prove she was at the top of her game as well as being at the top of her age bracket.
At 35, Venus showed she still has enough game to compete, but at 33 Serena is on her way into history.