Yes, Serena Williams won in straight sets again. And yes, she moved into an all-American showdown at the U.S. Open against Sloane Stephens. Still, this victory did not quite go according to plan.
Her serve only so-so at times, her footwork a bit off, Williams got by and got through Thursday night against an opponent ranked just 117th, beating Margarita Gasparyan 6-2, 6-4 and letting out a cry of “Yes!” at the end that reverberated in a nearly empty Arthur Ashe Stadium.

It sounded more like relief than excitement.

“The only thing that gets me flustered is really me, like, because I always feel like I’m not winning every point. I mean, like, that doesn’t make sense,“ said Williams, who has won six of her 23 Grand Slam singles titles at Flushing Meadows and was the runner-up the past two years.

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