Tennis: Serena steps up US Open title pursuit as Barty, Pliskova fall

Williams serves during her match against Petra Martic of Croatia.
Williams serves during her match against Petra Martic of Croatia.PHOTO: AFP

NEW YORK (AFP) - Serena Williams overcame a scary fall to maintain her pursuit of a record-tying 24th Grand Slam singles title at the US Open on Sunday (Sept 1) while Roland Garros champion Ashleigh Barty and Karolina Pliskova crashed out in the last 16.

Williams, a six-time US Open winner, romped to a 6-3, 6-4 victory over Croatian 22nd seed Petra Martic to set up a quarter-final with China's Wang Qiang, the conqueror of world number two Barty.

The 37-year-old American star required a medical timeout in the second set after rolling her right ankle as she approached the net but promptly recovered to reach the last eight in New York for the 16th time.

"I just rolled it (my ankle) I don't know why, I was volleying and it just went over - that was frustrating but I wanted to get it compressed really fast," said Williams, who received further strapping to an already heavily-taped ankle.

Eighth-seeded Williams, who has battled knee and back injuries this season, felt a mental setback when it happened but battled through to win.

"I've had a rough year with injuries," Williams said. "It was like, 'Oh my God. Not again. I'm finally walking'."

Williams, who last won a major at the 2017 Australian Open and hasn't won the US Open since 2014, is seeking a 24th career Slam title to match Margaret Court's all-time record.

She will play 18th seed Wang for the first time as the Chinese 27-year-old extended her best Slam run with a 6-2, 6-4 defeat of an erratic Barty.

The Australian, who beat Wang twice last year in their only prior meetings, was undone by 39 unforced errors at Louis Armstrong Stadium.

"It's a tough day at the office today. But it has been a year where we've hit our goals," Barty said.

"We've had a great season in Grand Slams for singles. We've made the second week every single one, which has been really special.

"Now we'll sit back, reflect, and look forward to a big couple months to finish off the year."

MCNAMARA SPIRIT WITH WANG

Wang became the first Chinese player to reach the women's quarter-finals since Peng Shuai made it to the last four in 2014.

"I think I'm really focused on the court, really enjoyed the way I played. I'm so happy I won," said Wang, whose breakthrough run has been fuelled by the memory of her late coach, Peter McNamara.

The former Australian Davis Cup tennis star and Wimbledon doubles champion passed away in July at the age of 64 after a battle with prostate cancer.

"He helped me a lot. It was really tough to me to hear he passed," Wang said.

"I think he has always been there with me." Johanna Konta avenged her Rome final loss to Pliskova in May, beating the Czech third seed for just the second time in eight tries, 6-7 (1/7), 6-3, 7-5.

The British 16th seed has raised her game at the Slams this season, and is enjoying her best run at Flushing Meadows, having twice reached the fourth round.

"To go one step further is a massive achievement for me and I'm really hoping to make that one, two, three steps forward," Konta said.

Konta has experienced middling fortunes on the WTA circuit while producing some of her best tennis at the majors, reaching the semi-finals at Roland Garros and then advancing to the last eight at Wimbledon last month.

"To make the quarter-finals of a Grand Slam for the third time this year is a massive achievement for me." Pliskova, the 2016 US Open runner-up, saw her hopes of returning to world number one this fortnight extinguished by the loss.

"She (Konta) played extremely well at some points. Of course, I had my chances, maybe the set and break. I didn't play that well there," Pliskova said.

"But I think overall she just went for it, she played more aggressive than maybe the matches what we played before."

Ukrainian fifth seed Elina Svitolina takes on 2017 finalist Madison Keys in the evening session at Arthur Ashe Stadium.