Serena, Venus set up all-Williams third-round match

The Associated Press

NEW YORK — Get ready for the latest Grand Slam installment of Williams vs. Williams.

One big difference this time: The superstar siblings will be meeting in the third round at the U.S. Open, their earliest showdown at a major tournament in 20 years.

Serena Williams set up the highly anticipated matchup at Flushing Meadows by hitting 13 aces and overwhelming 101st-ranked Carina Witthoeft 6-2, 6-2 in a little more than an hour in Arthur Ashe Stadium on Wednesday. Hours earlier, across the way at Louis Armstrong Stadium, Venus Williams did her part with another straight-set victory, eliminating 40th-ranked Camila Giorgi 6-4, 7-5.

“Unfortunately and fortunately, we have to play each other,” Serena Williams said. “We make each other better. We bring out the best when we play each other. It’s what we do. I think we’re used to it now.”

When they play Friday, it will be their 30th tour-level encounter — plus, of course, all those times when they traded shots from across the net as kids in California, then on practice courts all around the world. It’s also the soonest the sisters have played each other at any Grand Slam since their very first tour match, all the way back at the 1998 Australian Open. Venus won that one. But since then, it’s been the younger Serena who’s grown dominant.

The reason this match comes so early is that their rankings are not what they’ve been in the past. Serena is No. 26, playing in only the seventh tournament since she was off the tour for more than a year while having a baby. Even though the U.S. Tennis Association bumped her seeding up to reflect her past success, it still placed her at No. 17. Venus, meanwhile is No. 16.

Serena leads the series 17-12, including 10-5 at majors.

Seeded women who advanced on another day with the temperature topping 95 degrees included No. 7 Elina Svitolina, No. 8 Karolina Pliskova, No. 15 Elise Mertens, No. 19 Anastasija Sevastova and No. 23 Barbora Strycova, all in straight sets.

Two-time major champion Garbine Muguruza built a big lead but gave it away and was stunned 3-6, 6-4, 6-4 by 202nd-ranked Czech qualifier Karolina Muchova in a match that ended after 1 a.m.

Past men’s champions Rafael Nadal, Juan Martin del Potro and Stan Wawrinka won, as did 2017 runner-up Kevin Anderson and No. 11 seed John Isner.

Three-time major champion Andy Murray saw his first major since hip surgery end with a four-set loss to No. 31 Fernando Verdasco.