Serena Williams has set up a titanic Wimbledon fourth round showdown with sister Venus as the world number one staged a dramatic final set fightback to beat Britain’s Heather Watson 6-2 4-6 7-5.
Williams, bidding for a sixth Wimbledon title and a calendar Grand Slam, was on the brink of a humiliating third round exit when Watson served for the match at 5-4 in the final set.
But Serena, who had trailed 3-0 in the decider, showed why she has won 20 Grand Slam titles as she broke back before finally sealing an epic escape in two hours and 14 minutes in front of an enthralled Centre Court.
The 33-year-old American will face Venus on Monday for the first time in a grand slam since beating her in the 2009 Wimbledon final.
The sisters’ last meeting came in 2014 when Venus won in Montreal, but Serena holds a 14-11 advantage over the 35-year-old in their career head to head.
Meanwhile, fourth-seeded Maria Sharapova made the last 16 with a 6-4 6-3 win over Romania’s Irina-Camelia Begu and goes on to tackle either Germany’s 14th seed Andrea Petkovic or unseeded Zarina Diyas of Kazakhstan for a spot in the
“What everyone at this stage of the tournament expects is to go further and expect more, better things from yourself. As the matches get tougher, you have to raise your level,” said five-time Grand Slam winner Sharapova.
Coco Vandeweghe, one of six American women in the third round, reached the last 16 at a grand slam for the first time with a 6-2 6-0 win over 2011 US Open champion Sam Stosur of Australia.
It was a second grand slam win of the season for world number 47 Vandeweghe against Stosur, after also knocking her out of the Australian Open in January.
Stosur has yet to get beyond the third round at Wimbledon in 13 years of trying.
Vandeweghe will next face Czech sixth seed Lucie Safarova, who beat Sloane Stephens of the United States 3-6 6-3 6-1.
Teenager Belinda Bencic became the first Swiss woman into the fourth round since Patty Schnyder in 2007 when she defeated American qualifier Bethanie Mattek-Sands 7-5 7-5.
And former world number one and two-time semi-finalist Victoria Azarenka made the last 16 with a 6-4 6-4 win over France’s Kristina Mladenovic and next faces Bencic.