Serena Williams calmly walked to the side after statement-making forehand return

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Next for the 36-year-old American comes a quarterfinal against 2016 runner-up Karolina Pliskova, who beat Williams in the U.S. Open semifinals that year. Grown-up idolizing Swiss legend Martina Hingis, the first Estonian to reach a Grand Slam quarterfinal (2008, at Roland-Garros), to play a WTA final (2006, at Hasselt), to win a WTA title (2010, at Palermo) and to beat a world No.

When Williams shanked a backhand return of a 103 mph serve, the match was a little more than an hour old, and it was all tied at a set apiece. Thiem's only victory had come on clay, his best surface. She was getting better reads on Williams' serves. "Coming back from a baby is hard, harder than I thought". I was, like, a dark horse. Nobody was expecting me to get that far.

Williams produced a near flawless set - taking it 6-0 in 18 minutes which contained four aces, points won on every one of her successful first serves, three breaks from three chances and 14 winners. "Wouldn't you love to see one of these National Football League owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, to say, 'Get that son of a bitch off the field right now. Out!" She punctuated her 17th ace of the game with a huge "Come on!" to go up 5-2.

Kanepi, a former World No.15 who reached the US Open quarterfinals in 2010 and previous year, fired 22 winners to 18 unforced errors in the match.

Now comes a rematch: She'll face No. 19 Anastasija Sevastova of Latvia, the same person she beat in last year's quarterfinals at Flushing Meadows.

This time, Pliskova won't be the dark horse. She hasn't dropped a set yet this tournament. "I'm just happy to get through it, to be honest".

Winning the US Open for a seventh time would see her level Australian Margaret Court's all-time record of 24 majors.

Asked about the improvements she has made since losing in the final of Wimbledon to Angelique Kerber, Williams said: "The thing I've improved most is my fitness. I don't know how [Nick] Kyrgios and guys like that do it". "I hope to be ready to make that happen".

The Czech will be running into a woman on a roll Tuesday.

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That was all she needed as 18 aces and 47 total winners proved plenty to put her through.

"That desire has not gone down at all", she said.

Stephens and Williams could be on a collision course for the semifinals, where Stephens beat Venus a year ago.

It was the first set she had taken off the American in five meetings.

Also in attendance were quarterback Colin Kaepernick and safety Eric Reid.

Williams played Sunday one day after daughter Olympia's first birthday.

On Sunday, she showed progress again. When Serena double-faulted to give her a second break and the 5-2 lead, the momentum of the match changed.

Also in action on Sunday: Defending US Open champs Sloane Stephens and Rafael Nadal, both of whom also advanced. Kanepi was matching Williams' power with booming groundstrokes of her own. "I'm just going to try to keep building on that and keep going". She has had a great career.

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