NEW YORK — Serena Williams equaled her most-lopsided victory in 30 professional meetings with sister Venus, beating her 6-1, 6-2 on Friday night in the third round of the U.S. Open.

Serena shook off an early ankle injury and won seven straight games to seize control in perhaps her most dominant performance since giving birth to her daughter a year ago Saturday.

The sisters’ earliest meeting in a Grand Slam tournament in 20 years was over early, with Venus unable to do anything to blunt Serena’s power, even after the crowd tried desperately to get behind her early in the second set.

“It’s not easy,” Serena said, despite how easy it looked in a match that lasted just 1 hour, 12 minutes.

“She’s my best friend. She means the world to me. Every time she loses, I feel like I do. It’s not very easy, but it’s a tournament. We know there’s more to life than just playing each other and playing tennis.”

They hadn’t played this early in a Grand Slam since Venus won in the second round of the 1998 Australian Open in their first meeting as pros, and only once over the next two decades had either won so decisively. Serena won by the same score in a semifinal in Charleston, South Carolina, in 2013.

Serena, who is only the No. 17 seed because her ranking dropped during his time off, will next face Kaia Kanepi of Estonia, who knocked out top-ranked Simona Halep in the first round.

Serena, who turns 37 next month, leads her sister 18-12, including 11-5 in Grand Slam tournaments. This one wasn’t expected to be so easy, not with Serena still working her way back into form after returning to the tour in the spring.

But this was the type of tennis that has brought her to 23 Grand Slam singles titles, the ability to pound balls all over the court and chase down the rare shots that looked like they might get past her.

“This was my best match since I returned,” she said. “I worked for it. I worked really hard these last three or four months. That’s life, you have to keep working hard no matter what ups or downs you have. That’s what I’ve been doing.”

She pounded 10 aces to just one for Venus, the No. 16 seed who was perhaps a little drained after two tough matches to begin the tournament, including a three-setter against 2004 U.S. Open champion Svetlana Kuznetsova in her opener.

Serena had an easier time in the first two rounds. The sisters have combined for eight titles at Flushing Meadows – six by Serena – and each had beaten the other in a U.S. Open final.

But there was no beating Serena on this night, and the discouraged look on Venus’ face for much of the match indicated she seemed to realize it.

Earlier, 2017 champion Sloane Stephens betrayed a lot more emotion on that court than she usually shows anywhere, all of the double fist pumps making perfectly clear just how tight and tense things had been during her 6-3, 6-4 win against two-time runner-up Victoria Azarenka.

Defending men’s champion Rafael Nadal was in a bit of trouble in his third-round match against No. 27 seed Karen Khachanov, as he was two points away from falling into a two-set hole. Then he was two points away from dropping the third set. And then he was one point from losing the fourth set and being pushed to a fifth.

As all of those key moments presented themselves, Nadal managed to come through. The No. 1 seed used his customary relentless style to wear down Khachanov physically and mentally, eventually getting to the fourth round with an entertaining and back-and-forth 5-7, 7-5, 7-6 (7), 7-6 (3) victory that took 4 hours, 23 minutes.

“I escaped a very tough situation,” Nadal said, “so it’s a great thing.”

The man he beat in last year’s final, No. 5 Kevin Anderson, got through his own tough test against an up-and-coming opponent, edging No. 28 Denis Shapovalov 3-6, 6-4, 6-4, 4-6, 6-4.

No. 11 seed John Isner, the only American left in the men’s draw, moved into the fourth round with a 7-6 (8), 6-7 (6), 6-3, 7-5 win over Dusan Lajovic.


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