NEW YORK — From an ace on the first point to a stinging return on the last, Serena Williams was close to perfect in the U.S. Open quarter-finals.
The score said it all Tuesday night: 6-0, 6-0.
Yes, Williams is looking better and better with each match at the year’s last Grand Slam tournament. With two more wins — no matter the exact scores — she’ll earn a fifth title at Flushing Meadows and 17th major championship overall.
The No. 1-ranked and No. 1-seeded Williams shut out 18th-seeded Carla Suarez Navarro of Spain, the first “double bagel” in a quarter-final at Flushing Meadows since 1989, when 18-time major title winner Martina Navratilova did it to Manuela Maleeva.
“When you play against Serena,” Suarez Navarro said, “you know these things can happen.”
Williams won 53 of 71 points and dominated pretty much every statistical category. The first set took all of 19 minutes. The second was slower, lasting 33 minutes, but no less lopsided.
Williams was asked whether she’d describe her performance as close to flawless.
“Of course not,” the defending champion said with a laugh. “I played good, though. I played really good. I was just more focused than anything. You know, I like to believe there is room for improvement.”
That might be bad news for her opponent in Friday’s semifinals, 2011 French Open champion Li Na of China. Asked in an on-court interview if her game is peaking, Williams replied: “No. Not yet. I hope not. I’m just trying to do the best that I can.”
Through five matches, Williams has dropped a total of 13 games so far. For comparison’s sake, know this: Suarez Navarro lost more games than that in her previous match alone, 15, while eliminating No. 8 Angelique Kerber.
That victory, and her seeding, should have demonstrated that Suarez Navarro is quite capable of playing well, too. But not on this evening. Not against Williams, who is 65-4 with eight titles in 2013.
Going back to the start of Wimbledon last year, the 31-year-old American is 96-5 with 13 trophies, including from three of the past five Grand Slam tournaments plus the London Olympics.
“The conditions were so tough, so it definitely was not her best tennis today,” Williams said about Suarez Navarro, who was playing in her third career major quarter-final Tuesday, which happened to be her 25th birthday.
Tough conditions, huh? That swirling wind in Arthur Ashe Stadium sure did not appear to bother Williams one bit. She wound up with a 20-3 edge in winners. She made fewer unforced errors, 12-9. She won 23 of 26 points on first serves.
“I’ve been playing here for, like, 50 years,” Williams said with a laugh. “I’ve kind of gotten used to the conditions. Even though it’s difficult to play each year, I’m getting a little bit better with it.”
When Williams did face a break point for the first time, 42 minutes and 11 games into the match, she came up with a big serve and raced forward for a simple putaway that she punctuated with a yell.
Moments later came a second break chance, but even with Williams stumbling to the court, Suarez Navarro dumped the ball into the net.
It was that kind of night.
“She’s the best player in the sport,” Suarez Navarro said. “When you look at the draw, you don’t want to see Serena there.”
Before the match, picturing in her mind what it might be like to step out in the largest arena in Grand Slam tennis, under the lights at night, against Williams, Suarez Navarro came up with a couple of possible scenarios.
“I imagined a movie in which I won. I also imagined a movie in which I played well, but she ended up winning,” she said. “I was dreaming so many things.”