Milos Raonic, Federer move on to 4th round at U.S. Open

Roger Federer saved the lone break point he faced Saturday in a 6-3, 6-4, 6-4 victory over No. 25 Fernando Verdasco to advance to the fourth round of the U.S. Open in New York.

Serena Williams, Radwanska advance to next round

Milos Raonic returns a shot to James Blake in the third round at the U.S. Open on Saturday in New York. (Paul Bereswill/Associated Press)

Milos Raonic advanced to the fourth round of the U.S. Open in dominating fashion.

The hard-hitting 21-year-old from Thornhill, Ont., fired in 29 aces to eliminate American James Blake in a 6-3, 6-0, 7-6(3) victory on Saturday.

Raonic is the first Canadian male to get this far at Flushing Meadows since 1988, when Montreal's Martin Laurendeau did it.

"It was a good day on serve for me," said Raonic. "But I can get better.

"I served well but I got a bit tight in the third set. I was able to clear that up in the tiebreaker though."

The 15th-seeded must now take on third seed and British Olympic gold medallist Andy Murray, who struggled to get past Spain's Feliciano Lopez 7-6(5), 7-6(5), 4-6, 7-6(4) after nearly four hours of play.

Raonic and Murray have played once this season and been involved in a pair of walkovers — Miami (Raonic hurt) and Toronto (Murray hurt).

The Canadian won the actual match played, a Barcelona quarter-final on clay last spring. But Murray on hardcourt is another story after the Scot played the 2008 final here against Roger Federer.

Raonic said that his shorter match time Saturday is unlikely to make a difference against Murray.

"Two days is a long time, we will have to wait and see," he said. "I only have to worry about taking care of myself and my game. I do what I need to do to get ready. I need to go out there and take the match from him.

"You give the top four guys a lot of respect, but I think my win over him was good experience. It humanizes the guy. I need to do the right things in our next match.

"The opportunities will be there, I just need to take them."

Raonic moved quickly on Saturday, crushing the 32-year-old Blake in just under two hours.

Raonic also broke Blake five times and fired in 54 winners to ensure that he'll be playing in the deciding week of a major for the first time since the 2011 Australian Open.

Raonic swept the first two sets before Blake made a minor stand in the third.

But the Canadian took command when the set went into a tiebreaker, serving out the win on his third of five match points.

Top-seeded Roger Federer faced only a single break point in his 6-3, 6-4, 6-4 victory over No. 25 Fernando Verdasco on Saturday and won it with the longest point of the match — a 20-stroke rally he captured by moving Verdasco back and forth on the baseline until the Spaniard finally sprayed a forehand wide.

The rest of the time, Verdasco found Federer doing an unusual amount of damage at the net, closing out 26 of 27 points from the front court. Federer added that effort to the 32 points he won in 47 trips to the net two nights earlier in a second-round win over Bjorn Phau.

"I really tried to play offensive against ... Phau in my second match," Federer said. "I did lose more points than I was hoping to. But I think that gave me the confidence to move forward today. And conditions helped that because it was quicker during the day."

Indeed, the wind and the quicker surface put more pressure on Verdasco, a baseliner who had trouble getting the ball past Federer. It was hard for him to get comfortable against the 17-time Grand Slam champion, who got 67 per cent of his first serves in, many at tough angles that drove Verdasco off the side of the court.

"He served well the whole match," Verdasco said. "He always has great control close to the lines with his serve."

Federer has not lost a set through three matches over the first week at the U.S. Open.

Serena Williams avenges Australian Open defeat

Serena Williams does not enjoy viewing videos of her losses. Not one bit.

She used to engage in that sort of film work, Williams said, but "it was so painful; it was like stabbing myself."

So even though Williams knew her third-round opponent at the U.S. Open would be the same woman she lost to at the Australian Open, preparing by studying a replay of that January defeat simply was out of the question.

Did not seem to matter at all.

After splitting Saturday's first eight games against 42nd-ranked Ekaterina Makarova of Russia, the fourth-seeded Williams got into high gear and breezed to a 6-4, 6-0 victory, reeling off the last eight games in a row.

"Definitely was motivated. Knowing that I lost; could definitely happen again. Did not want that to happen," said Williams, who hit 13 aces to raise her tour-leading total this season to 408.

"I really hate watching matches that I lose, unless I'm punishing myself," added the 14-time Grand Slam champion. "I didn't punish myself."

She hasn't been losing much lately.

Since the only first-round Grand Slam exit of her career, against 111th-ranked Virginie Razzano at the French Open on May 29, Williams is 22-1 in singles, including the title at Wimbledon and gold medal at the London Olympics.

That sort of excellence sure saves money for clothes: Williams said she threw out all of the dresses she brought to Paris to wear during matches there.

No such problems so far in New York, where Williams has dropped only 12 games entering her fourth-round match against 82nd-round Andrea Hlavackova of Czech Republic. Hlavackova, the 2011 French Open doubles champion, bawled on court after her 5-7, 6-4, 6-4 win over 14th-seeded Maria Kirilenko, whose boyfriend, Washington Capitals star Alex Ovechkin, was in New York to cheer for her.

The woman Williams beat in the Wimbledon final, second-seeded Agnieszka Radwanska, dealt with the 90-degree heat and former No. 1 Jelena Jankovic with equal aplomb during a 6-3, 7-5 victory.

"I was melting there," Radwanska said. "I survived the match."

On Saturday against Makarova, things were even at 4-all in the first set, before Williams held serve to go up 5-4. In the next game, Williams broke the left-handed Makarova for the first time to take the opening set and seize control in Arthur Ashe Stadium.

At 15-all, Williams hit a backhand winner down the line. Then she earned a set point with big forehand to a corner that allowed her to put away a swinging backhand volley winner. And when Makarova pushed a down-the-line forehand long to cap the set, Williams let out a loud, excited yell of "Come on!"

Beginning to put the match out of reach, Williams got another break point the next time Makarova served with a reflex forehand volley passing shot off an overhead, and followed up with a strong backhand approach that her opponent couldn't handle. That made it 2-0 in the second set, and Williams' older sister, seven-time major champion Venus, applauded from her seat in the stands.

In all, Williams won 32 of 40 points on her serve and never faced a break point.

By the time it was over, she also held a 31-10 edge in winners, moving a step closer to adding a fourth U.S. Open trophy to the ones she won in 1999, 2002 and 2008.

The last time these two women played each other, it wasn't close, either. The difference, surprisingly, was that Makarova won 6-2, 6-3 in the fourth round in Melbourne. She got plenty of help from seven double-faults and 37 total unforced errors by Williams, who joked that day, "Maybe I should have started serving lefty."

That loss remains the only one for Williams in 22 Grand Slam matches against lefties.

"She served so much better than she did in Australia. So when she's serving that good, it's really tough to play against her," Makarova said. "I knew she would start aggressive, because that's how it is anytime she loses and she really wants to beat someone."

In other results:

Men's singles

Third round

  • Nicolas Almagro (11), Spain, def. Jack Sock, United States, 7-6 (3), 6-7 (4), 7-6 (2), 6-1.
  • Marin Cilic (12), Croatia, def. Kei Nishikori (17), Japan, 6-3, 6-4, 6-7 (3), 6-3.
  • Martin Klizan, Slovakia, def. Jeremy Chardy (32), France, 6-4, 6-4, 6-4.
  • Tomas Berdych (6), Czech Republic, def. Sam Querrey (27), United States, 6-7 (6), 6-4, 6-3, 6-2.
  • Mardy Fish (23), United States, def. Gilles Simon (16), France, 6-1, 5-7, 7-6 (5), 6-3.

Women's singles

Third round

Roberta Vinci (20), Italy, def. Dominika Cibulkova (13), Slovakia, 6-2, 7-5.

Tsvetana Pironkova, Bulgaria, def. Silvia Soler-Espinosa, Spain, 6-1, 6-7 (3), 6-3.

Angelique Kerber (6), Germany, def. Olga Govortsova, Belarus, 6-1, 6-2.

Sara Errani (10), Italy, def. Olga Puchkova, Russia, 6-1, 6-1.

Ana Ivanovic (12), Serbia, def. Sloane Stephens, United States, 6-7 (4), 6-4, 6-2.

With files from The Associated Press