Serena Williams was busy having a baby girl on Friday and isn't competing in this year's US Open, but that hasn't stopped the other American women from doing well in her absence.
Five American women reached the Round of 16, with two of them already safely into the quarterfinals.
No. 9 seed Venus Williams and unseeded Sloane Stephens both won their fourth-round matches on Sunday, while No. 15 Madison Keys, No. 20 CoCo Vandeweghe and unseeded Jennifer Brady are looking to book spots in the quarters on Monday.
"It's awesome," Keys, 22, said after her victory over No. 17 seed Elena Vesnina ended at 1:46 Sunday morning. "If I'm getting asked about it, it means we're all doing really well. Having so many American women in the final 16 is really amazing. I would consider all of them friends of mine. I'm really happy for all of us."
The American women not named Williams are continually asked about comparisons to Serena, the owner of an Open-Era record 23 Grand Slam singles titles, and Venus, who owns seven major titles and reached the finals of the Australian Open and Wimbledon this year at 37.
But they understand it's an unfair comparison, given all the legendary sisters from Compton, CA have accomplished.
"It doesn't really register, to be honest," Keys said. "Venus and Serena are Venus and Serena. They're two of the greatest tennis players ever. They always will be. So I think trying to measure up to them is basically impossible.
"I feel like in recent years I've just stopped trying. I'm just going to worry about myself, and other people can worry about all of the other business."
Although Serena continues to grab headlines by giving birth to her first child and making Venus an aunt again in the process, the other American women now have a chance to go deep into the year's final Grand Slam.
"I think the other Americans have always been doing well with or without Serena," said Vandeweghe, the niece of former NBA standout Kiki Vandeweghe. "I think Serena's a very hard person to catch in what she's been doing."
"But I think we've been progressing. I think the girls all around my age have been moving up through the rankings, doing better in Grand Slams."
Playing in the top half of the draw, the big-hitting Vandeweghe appears to have a real shot at another deep run in a major. She reached the semifinals of the Australian Open in January and then the quarterfinals at Wimbledon. Next up she gets Lucie Safarova of Czechia.
"I'm excited to have the opportunity to play against Lucie," she said. "I know she's a tough competitor. She's former top 10 in the world, a finalist at a Grand Slam. She's definitely no slouch at all."
Brady, 22, turned pro after her sophomore year at UCLA and has now reached the fourth round in Australia and New York. Her reward? Top-seeded Karolina Pliskova, last year's runner-up.
"I have never played a No. 1 player in the world," Brady said. "At times, you kind of come back to reality and are, like, on paper, I'm not supposed to win this match. Like I said, I'll just go out there and compete and have fun."
On Sunday, Stephens took out No. 30 Julia Goerges, 6-3, 3-6, 6-1, while Venus advanced over Carla Suarez Navarro, 6-3, 3-6, 6-1.
Stephens will face No. 16 Anastasija Sevastova, who knocked out Maria Sharapova in three sets. Williams will face No. 13 Petra Kvitova, who stunned No. 3 Garbine Muguruza, the Wimbledon champion, 7-6, 6-3 on Sunday night. Kvitova is 4-1 against Williams.
"My best tennis this year has come at the majors," Venus said. "I don't play nearly as much as some of my contemporaries, but this year when I have played, it's definitely been quality tennis. That's exactly what I want, and obviously to play my best tennis at the Big 4."
Even without Serena, there is hope for the American women at this US Open.
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