(L-R) Serena Williams shakes hands with Alison Riske following victory in her quarterfinal match during Wimbledon 2019 on July 09, 2019 in London, England.
Alison Riske had never appeared in a Grand Slam quarterfinal before Tuesday, whereas Serena Williams was looking for her 24th Grand Slam title.
If the all-American matchup seemed lopsided on paper, however, it was anything but on Center Court.
In the third and deciding set, it was ultimately the battle-tested four-time Olympic gold medalist who prevailed after breaking Riske on her fourth chance to end perhaps the best game of the match and serve for the win, 6-4, 4-6, 6-3.
“It was really satisfying, I wouldn’t have won that match a couple weeks ago,” Williams said. “(Riske) honestly is playing so great, she beat so many great players and, oh my God, she was so close to taking the win today.”
Riske plays best on grass, proving that with wins over three seeded players including No. 1 Ashleigh Barty to set up the meeting with Williams. The Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, native broke Williams in the third game to take a 2-1 lead and then Williams broke back to tie things up at 3-3. Riske responded with another break to regain the lead but then Williams responded in kind yet again. Ultimately the first set went to Williams, who told reporters after leaving Spaniard Carla Suarez Navarro in the dust the match before that the rust was wearing off.
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Williams just couldn’t manage to open up any sort of a lead in the second set, however, and after Riske broke to take a 5-4 lead and Williams had the trainer out to look at her right ankle before Riske served for set, it was still very much anyone’s game. Riske blew through the game holding Williams without a point to send things to a third and deciding set.
The two traded breaks to start the third set and then with Williams ahead, 3-1, Riske made it 5-for-5 on break opportunities to close the gap. Playing in her fourth three-set match of the tournament, Riske held to even things up at 3-3 and the battle continued.
Williams will now play the winner of the United Kingdom’s Johanna Konta versus Czech Barbora Strycova.
Williams had a busy Tuesday lined up as she was set to play later in mixed doubles with Andy Murray in their second-round match. Elsewhere in doubles, Danielle Collins and Bethanie Mattek-Sands advanced to the quarterfinals via walkover. Olympic gold medalist brothers Bob and Mike Bryan lost their third-round match to France’s Nicholas Mahut and Edouard Roger-Vasselin on Monday, 7-6 (3), 6-2, 4-6, 7-6 (5).
Karen Price is a reporter from Pittsburgh who has covered Olympic sports for various publications. She is a freelance contributor to TeamUSA.org on behalf of Red Line Editorial, Inc.