NEW YORK — Already having let a big early lead slip away in the U.S. Open’s fourth round, Serena Williams was facing a break point and in danger of falling behind Ana Ivanovic, a former No. 1 and Grand Slam title-winner.
A six-stroke exchange ended with Ivanovic netting a forehand to make the game score deuce. Up near the net, Williams held up a clenched fist and yelled, loud as can be: “Come on!”
It’s a rallying cry often heard from the 29-year-old American, her first such display of this afternoon. Calling the match on TV, seven-time major champion John McEnroe said, “Scared me.”
Whether that sort of in-your-face yell is meant to frighten opponents or not, it appeared to have that very effect. Williams took the next two points, too, starting a run of five consecutive games that allowed her to regain the upper hand in a 6-3, 6-4 victory over the 16th-seeded Ivanovic on Monday.
Asked afterward whether she tries to be intimidating on court, 13-time Grand Slam champion Williams replied: “No, I don’t try. I just am.”
Ivanovic insisted Williams didn’t bother her with anything she said: “Not at all; I mean, I was screaming some ‘Come ons’,” the Serb explained.
But what about the way Williams plays? Well, that’s another matter entirely.
“She does try to intimidate,” 2008 French Open champion Ivanovic said. “She stays close to the baseline so you feel like you have no space to hit to.”
Williams, a three-time champion at the U.S. Open, is back in a major quarterfinal for the first time since she won the Wimbledon championship in 2010, a 14-month gap filled with health scares that kept her off tour for nearly a year.
The lack of matches pushed Williams’ ranking down to 175th, and while consecutive hard-court titles at Stanford and Toronto raised it, she’s seeded only 28th in New York.
Next for Williams is a match against No. 17 Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova of Russia, who came back to beat No. 7 Francesca Schiavone of Italy 5-7, 6-3, 6-4 in a ragged match. There were 16 breaks of serve in 31 total games, and the two women combined for 21 double-faults.
On the men’s side, top-ranked Novak Djokovic survived a marathon tiebreaker then cruised the rest of the way to beat Alexandr Dolgopolov in the fourth round.
The Serb won 7-6 (14), 6-4, 6-2 Monday. He’ll face countryman Janko Tipsarevic, who beat Juan Carlos Ferraro 7-5, 6-7 (3), 7-5, 6-2, in the quarterfinals.
Djokovic fought off four set points in the tiebreaker against the 22nd-seeded Ukrainian. He finally clinched the set with a big serve.
France’s Jo-Wilfried Tsonga came back to eliminate Mardy Fish, the highest-seeded American, 6-4, 6-7 (5), 3-6, 6-4, 6-2 Monday to reach the quarterfinals for the first time.
No. 8 Fish was trying to make it past the fourth round at Flushing Meadows for the second time. But his play dipped in the fourth set, and he was treated by a trainer for a right leg problem before the fifth.
The 11th-seeded Tsonga’s best Grand Slam showing was reaching the final of the 2008 Australian Open. He also made it to the Wimbledon semifinals this year by rallying to beat Roger Federer after dropping the first two sets.
Tsonga could face Federer again in the quarterfinals at Flushing Meadows.
Federer played Juan Monaco late Monday.