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NEW YORK – All in one fell swoop, Venus Williams eliminated one of the only two women who beat her younger sister this season and moved closer to a possible U.S. Open quarterfinal showdown against Serena.
Gathering herself after a mid-match dip in play Friday, Venus reeled off the last five games and beat 12th-seeded Belinda Bencic of Switzerland 6-3, 6-4 to reach the fourth round at Flushing Meadows for the first time since 2010.
At 35, Venus was the oldest woman in the field. At 18, Bencic was the youngest to make it to the third round. She is mentored by Martina Hingis, who was sitting in the front row of her guest box in Arthur Ashe Stadium on a cloudy, breezy afternoon.
During an on-court interview after Venus' victory Friday, she was asked about having reached her first major final in her U.S. Open debut in 1997 — about six months after Bencic was born. Venus happened to lose that match to Hingis.
"Why do you have to bring all that stuff up? It makes me feel old," Venus replied, chuckling. "I love the game. I love the U.S. Open. I love how everyone got behind me, even when I was down. It's a wonderful feeling."
Bencic takes the ball early, plays angles Hingis can appreciate, and is considered a likely future star of the game. She showed why last month at a hard-court event in Toronto, earning the title and defeating Serena along the way.
Serena is seeking to complete a calendar-year Grand Slam at the U.S. Open and brought a 50-2 record in 2015 into her match against Bethanie Mattek-Sands scheduled for Friday night.
In other action, 13th-seeded Ekaterina Makarova of Russia, a 2014 semifinalist, was rebuffed in an attempt to get attention from a trainer for cramping in her taped-up right thigh while serving for the match, but eventually held on to beat 17th-seeded Elina Svitolina of Ukraine 6-3, 7-5.
"I was so scared," said Makarova, who now plays 40th-ranekd Kristina Mladenovic of France.
Defending champion Marin Cilic was among the men advancing in the afternoon, edging Mikhail Kukushkin of Kazakhstan 6-7 (5), 7-6 (1), 6-3, 6-7 (3), 6-1. Benoit Paire of France eliminated No. 26 Tommy Robredo, and No. 19 Jo-Wilfried Tsonga of France beat Sergiy Stakhovsky of Ukraine, both in straight sets.
After getting broken late in the first set Friday, Bencic looked to be making headway in the second against the 23rd-seeded Venus, breaking for a 3-1 lead with a running, down-the-line backhand passing shot that drew an errant volley.
"She's tenacious," Venus said, "and I'm really pleased to have played a match against someone who's had a great summer."
Bencic held to go up 4-1.
The match would last another 22 minutes — and Bencic would not win another game.
Venus collected 21 of the last 29 points, including 11 of the last 12 she served, and wound up with a 31-12 edge in winners. Despite going for her shots, she limited herself to 15 unforced errors.
"It's always a balance for me between playing aggressive and not making errors," Venus said. "At the end of the day, I'd rather make an error and play aggressive, go for it."
Looking ahead, she could face Serena early next week. Asked on court how aware she was of that, Venus said: "At this point, if you don't know, you're — I'm not even going to say. I hope we both get to the quarterfinals. I do."
Since getting to the semifinals five years ago, Venus has lost in the U.S. Open's first round once, the second round twice and the third round last year.
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