Serena Williams has left US Open viewers scrambling for superlatives after pulling off an incredible feat in her round of 16 victory on Monday.
The six-time champion used a blazing start and battling finish to reach the US Open quarter-finals with a 6-0, 4-6, 6-3 victory over Kaia Kanepi.
Williams, the 23-time Grand Slam champion seeking a first major since a 2017 Australian Open title won when she was pregnant with her daughter Olympia, will take on Karolina Pliskova for a semi-final spot after the eighth-seeded Czech beat Australian Ashleigh Barty 6-4, 6-4.
However, it was Williams’ lightning fast start that sent fans into a spin on social media – the American seizing the first set from Kanepi in just 18 minutes.
Serena just beat this girl in the first set in 18 minutes. That’s GOAT stuff right there
— LDOG 🤫 (@larrys1120) September 2, 2018
And we thought Serena was dominant against Venus. 18 minutes gone and she takes the first set 6-0 against Kaia Kanepi, who only won 6 points. Ouch
— Eleanor Crooks (@EleanorcrooksPA) September 2, 2018
Serena wins the first set over Kanepi 6-0, and it only took her 18 minutes. It takes me more than 18 minutes to get out of bed in the morning.
— Whitney McIntosh (@WhitneyM02) September 2, 2018
Mama Mia! Serena Williams just won her first set today in 18 minutes. I can't even mow my front lawn that quickly.
— Kevin Maher (@KMaherNews12) September 2, 2018
Most dominant set I’ve ever seen from a tennis player. @serenawilliams just won 6-0 in 18 minutes and only lost 5 points total in the set.
— SportsBusinessRadio (@SBRadio) September 2, 2018
But the hard-hitting Estonian, who took out world number one Simona Halep in the first round, settled down in the second, boosted by an opening break as she took a 2-0 lead.
After a Williams double fault gave Kanepi a break for a 5-2 Williams answered by winning the next two games.
But she couldn’t convert two break chances in the 10th, and after Williams saved two set points Kanepi knotted the match with a service winner on her third set point.
The determination to come home strongly was evident from Williams, who let out a roar after ripping a backhand cross court to hold serve in the opening game of the deciding set.
“It wasn’t an easy match at all,” Williams said.
“She’s had a lot of big wins in her career. I was just happy to get through it to be honest.”
Williams took control of the final set with a break for a 2-0 lead, her 18 aces and 47 total winners proving enough in the end to put her through.
Williams heads into the second week at Flushing Meadows tracking two milestones: A seventh US Open title would see her break out of a tie with Chris Evert for the Open Era record and also equal Australian Margaret Court’s all-time record of 24 major titles.
She can also avoid her first year since 2011 without a Grand Slam title. She missed her Australian Open title defense, not returning to the tour until March.
Williams withdrew prior to a fourth-round meeting with Maria Sharapova at the French Open with a shoulder injury before a scintillating run to the Wimbledon final ended with a runner-up finish to Angelique Kerber.