Serena Williams rampaged through her first four matches at the US Open, dropping only 12 games along the way, but she says she has not even started out strongly on the Flushing Meadows hardcourts.
Three-time winner Williams, a 14-time grand slam champion, cruised into the quarter-finals on Monday by crushing 82nd-ranked Andrea Hlavackova 6-0 6-0 in 57 minutes, firing eight aces and 31 winners.
The reigning Olympic and Wimbledon champion has dominated women’s tennis over the past two months and rules nowhere more than in New York, where her 62 career match triumphs are the most of any active player.
“I honestly don’t think I started out strong in the tournament,” Williams said.
“I feel like I’m getting more comfortable with the court and comfortable with the conditions. I’m getting back to more my game, which is good.
“I like to play better during the second week. Hopefully I can do that.”
Next in her path to the title is 12th seed Ana Ivanovic, whom she last faced and beat at last year’s US Open, a third win in three meetings against the Serb.
“Was it here?” Williams said. “OK, I remember clearly not a lot, but I will be looking at the film.”
Williams says her loss of only 12 games, six of them in a second-round win over Spain’s Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez, is a testament to her consistency.
“It says I’m focused, but it just says that I’m just trying like everyone else to be consistent and to do the best that I can,” Williams said.
“I feel good. I feel like I’m playing better. I felt like I hit better today than I had in my other matches. I wanted to do better. As each match goes on I want to try to get better.”
A tough first set fight in a 6-4 6-0 victory over Ekaterina Makarova has provided all the prodding Williams has needed. Since then, she has not dropped a game.
A devastating serve has powered Williams past all comers as it did at the All England Club for Wimbledon and Olympics titles.
“I think I hit unbelievable serves at Wimbledon and the Olympics. I’m not in that level yet (at the Open) but I always try to play better in my last matches of a grand slam.”
Ivanovic defeated Bulgaria’s Tsvetana Pironkova 6-0 6-4 to set up her first grand slam quarter final since her 2008 French Open win.
The 24-year-old has never taken a set off Williams in her three defeats.
Italian duo Sara Errani and Roberta Vinci set up a quarter-final clash of their own after 10th seed Errani defeated last year’s semi-finalist Angelique Kerber 7-6 (7-5) 6-3 and Vinci upset Polish second seed Agnieszka Radwanska 6-1 6-4.
It’s the first time two Italian women have made the last eight at the same grand slam.
Tuesday’s first quarter-finals pit top seed Victoria Azarenka against defending champion Samantha Stosur while 2006 winner Maria Sharapova takes on France’s Marion Bartoli.