NEW YORK — From an ace on the first point to a stinging return on the last, Serena Williams was close to perfect in the U.S. Open quarterfinals.
The score said it all Tuesday night: 6-0, 6-0.
With two more wins – no matter the exact scores – she’ll earn a fifth title at Flushing Meadows and 17th major championship overall.
The No. 1-ranked and No. 1-seeded Williams shut out 18th-seeded Carla Suarez Navarro, the first “double bagel” in a quarterfinal at Flushing Meadows since 1989, when 18-time Grand Slam champion Martina Navratilova did it to Manuela Maleeva.
Williams won 53 of 71 points and dominated nearly every statistical category. The first set took all of 19 minutes. The second was slower, lasting 33 minutes, but no less lopsided.
“When you play against Serena,” Suarez Navarro said, “you know these things can happen.”
Williams will play 2011 French Open champion Li Na in the semifinals Friday.
Asked in an on-court interview if her game is peaking, Williams replied: “No. Not yet. I hope not. I’m just trying to do the best that I can.”
Through five matches, Williams has dropped a total of 13 games so far. For comparison’s sake, Suarez Navarro lost more games than that in her previous match alone, 15, while eliminating No. 8 Angelique Kerber.
Williams improved to 65-4 with eight titles in 2013.
Going back to the start of Wimbledon last year, the 31-year-old American is 96-5 with 13 trophies, including from three of the past five Grand Slam tournaments plus the London Olympics.
“The conditions were so tough, so it definitely was not her best tennis today,” Williams said about Suarez Navarro, who was playing in her third career major quarterfinal Tuesday, which happened to be her 25th birthday.
Tough conditions, huh? That swirling wind in Arthur Ashe Stadium sure did not appear to bother Williams one bit. She wound up with a 20-3 edge in winners. She made fewer unforced errors, 12-9. She won 23 of 26 points on first serves.
“I’ve been playing here for, like, 50 years,” Williams said with a laugh. “I’ve kind of gotten used to the conditions. Even though it’s difficult to play each year, I’m getting a little bit better with it.”
When Williams did face a break point for the first time, 42 minutes and 11 games into the match, she came up with a big serve and raced forward for a simple putaway that she punctuated with a yell. Moments later came a second break chance, but even with Williams stumbling to the court, Suarez Navarro dumped the ball into the net.
It was that kind of night.
“She’s the best player in the sport,” Suarez Navarro said. “When you look at the draw, you don’t want to see Serena there.”
In men’s fourth-round action in the afternoon, top-seeded Novak Djokovic won 45 of 53 service points while eliminating 43rd-ranked Marcel Granollers 6-3, 6-0, 6-0 in a grand total of only 79 minutes.
Djokovic, who won the 2011 U.S. Open and lost in last year’s final to Andy Murray, reached his 18th consecutive major quarterfinal. Next up is a match against 21st-seeded Mikhail Youzhny of Russia, who was two points from defeat but came back to edge two-time major champion Lleyton Hewitt 6-3, 3-6, 6-7 (3), 6-4, 7-5.
The other men’s matches were at night, with Murray facing Denis Istomin of Uzbekistan, and No. 5 Tomas Berdych playing No. 9 Stanislas Wawrinka.
Earlier Tuesday, the fifth-seeded Li needed nearly 2Â½ hours to get past 24th-seeded Ekaterina Makarova of Russia 6-4, 6-7 (5), 6-2.
On three occasions, Li went up a break in the second set, nearing eventual victory each time, but could not finish things. She then was up 3-0 in the tiebreaker before faltering. Still, she recovered well and closed the match by taking the last four games, then joked that she would grab a bag of chips and enjoy watching Williams against Suarez Navarro.
Regardless of who she’d face next, Li made the point that what would be important is to focus on herself.
“I mean, if you only think about what (your) opponent (is) doing, of course you already lose the match before you come to the court,” Li said. “For tennis you have to figure out what you have to do on the court, what you should do.”
Li has only won one of nine career matches against Williams heading into Friday.
“Tough, tough opponent,” Li said. “But is (a) good challenge to play against her.”
The quarterfinals on the other half of the draw are Wednesday: second-seeded Victoria Azarenka of Belarus against 48th-ranked Daniela Hantuchova of Slovakia, and 10th-seeded Roberta Vinci against 83rd-ranked Flavia Pennetta in a matchup between two Italians in their 30s.
While the other women in that section all advanced Monday, Azarenka’s fourth-round match against 2008 French Open champion Ana Ivanovic was postponed until Tuesday at 11 a.m. because of rain. Azarenka got off to a slow start, but eventually got going and beat the 13th-seeded Ivanovic 4-6, 6-3, 6-4 in a topsy-turvy match with a combined 16 service breaks and 17 double-faults.
“I think,” two-time Australian Open champion Azarenka said, “we’re just great returners.”
Lamented Ivanovic: “I felt like I could break her, but it was very frustrating that I was losing my serve constantly.”