Serena Williams returns a shot to Maria Sakkari during their fourth-round match at the U.S. Open on Monday in New York. Williams won, 6-3, 6-7 (6), 6-3.  Seth Wenig/Associated Press

NEW YORK — There’s no crowd at the U.S. Open this year to pull for Serena Williams and try to push her to victory. So she provided her own encouragement in a tough fourth-round match Monday.

Shouting at herself point after point, Williams came back from a third-set deficit against a woman she lost to less than two weeks ago, and took another step closer to Grand Slam title No. 24 by beating Maria Sakkari 6-3, 6-7 (6), 6-3 at Flushing Meadows.

Williams reached the quarterfinals for a 12th consecutive U.S. Open appearance.

When the match ended, Williams turned and yelled toward her husband, who stood at his front-row seat and yelled right back.

How tight was this contest? The 15th-seeded Sakkari – who was trying to become the first Greek woman to reach a major quarterfinal – hit more aces than Williams, 13-12, and more total winners, 35-30.

It was a rematch from Aug. 25, when Williams faded after building a lead and lost in three sets at the Western & Southern Open, a hard-court tournament usually held in Ohio but moved to the U.S. Open site as part of a two-tournament “controlled environment” without spectators amid the coronavirus pandemic.

“Of course I thought about (the loss), but ever so little, because it’s a completely different match, completely different scenario, completely different moment,” Williams said.

In the earlier one, Williams’ legs were cramping by the end, and she blamed herself for that situation, memorably declaring: “I put myself in a bad situation. It’s like dating a guy that you know sucks.”

In Monday’s first match in Louis Armstrong Stadium, 21st-seeded Alex de Minaur of Australia reached his first Grand Slam quarterfinal by defeating Vasek Pospisil of Canada, 7-6 (6), 6-3, 6-2. He next faces No. 2 seed Dominic Thiem, who routed No. 15 Felix Auger-Aliassime, 7-6 (4), 6-1, 6-1.

Thiem, a three-time runner-up in Grand Slam events, is among the favorites in the wake of top-seeded Novak Djokovic’s default on Sunday. This is the first Grand Slam tournament since the 2004 French Open without at least one of Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal or Djokovic in the quarterfinals.

“It doesn’t matter at all if the Big Three are here or not,” said Thiem. “Everybody wants their hands on the trophy. It doesn’t really matter who they’re going to beat.”

Third-seeded Daniil Medvedev, the runner-up to Nadal last year, was in control from the outset of a 6-4, 6-1, 6-0 victory over American Frances Tiafoe. The Russian needed only an hour and 38 minutes as he maintained his streak of winning every set so far in the tournament.

Another Russian, 10th-seeded Andrey Rublev, advanced with a 4-6, 6-3, 6-3, 6-3 win over No. 6 Matteo Berrettini and will play Medvedev in the quarterfinals.

Williams was two points from victory at 6-all in the second-set tiebreaker. That’s when everything got complicated.

She sent a backhand return long to give Sakkari her fifth set point, then pushed a forehand out.

With that, the set belong to Sakkari, who shook her right fist. She retained the momentum, nosing ahead in the third set by breaking in its opening game when Williams sailed a backhand long. Soon it was 2-0 for Sakkari.

But Williams is rarely one to go quietly, and she certainly did not go quietly Monday.

She smacked a cross-court forehand winner to get the break back as part of a three-game run, and soon enough Williams had taken six of the last seven games.

Williams, who turns 39 in less than three weeks, will face unseeded Tsvetana Pironkova for a semifinal berth. Pironkova, a 32-year-old from Bulgaria who took three years away from tennis to become a mother and is playing her first tournament since Wimbledon in 2017, beat Alize Cornet, 6-4, 6-7 (5), 6-3.

No. 16 seed Elise Mertens knocked off second-seeded Sofia Kenin 6-3, 6-3 to reach the quarterfinals for the second year in a row and deny the American a chance for back-to-back Grand Slam titles.

Kenin won the Australian Open and was trying to become the first women with two straight Grand Slam titles since Naomi Osaka won the 2018 U.S. Open and the 2019 Australian Open.

Mertens will face Victoria Azarenka, who beat No. 20 Karolina Muchova 5-7, 6-1, 6-4. Azarenka, a two-time Australian Open champion, won the Western & Southern Open that was played in New York as an in-the-bubble warm-up for the U.S. Open.

Williams first won the title in New York all the way back in 1999 as a teenager and now has six U.S. Open trophies. In her most recent 11 trips to Flushing Meadows, Williams has four championships, three runner-up finishes and three semifinal losses.

She lost in the final in both 2018 and 2019, part of a stretch in which she has been to the title match at four of the past seven Grand Slam tournaments, falling just short of getting that elusive 24th, which would tie her with Margaret Court for the most in tennis history.

Unlike Court’s, all of Williams’ major championships have come in the professional era.

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