NEW YORK — All in one fell swoop, Venus Williams eliminated one of the only two women who beat her younger sister this season and moved closer to a possible U.S. Open quarter-final showdown against Serena.
Gathering herself after a mid-match dip in play Friday, Venus reeled off the last five games and beat 12th-seeded Belinda Bencic of Switzerland 6-3, 6-4 to reach the fourth round at Flushing Meadows for the first time since 2010.
Did Venus get any family advice before facing Bencic, who defeated Serena last month en route to the title at a hard-court event in Toronto?
"Yes, but that's between us," Venus said, breaking into a wide smile. "I think it worked."
At 35, Venus was the oldest woman in the field. At 18, Bencic was the youngest to make it to the third round. She is mentored by Martina Hingis, who was sitting in the front row of her guest box in Arthur Ashe Stadium on a cloudy, breezy afternoon.
During an on-court interview after the victory Friday, Venus was asked about having reached her first major final in her U.S. Open debut back in 1997 — about six months after Bencic was born. Venus happened to lose that match to Hingis.
"Why do you have to bring all that stuff up? It makes me feel old," Venus replied, chuckling. "I love the game. I love the U.S. Open. I love how everyone got behind me, even when I was down."
Venus trailed 4-1 in the second set before grabbing the last five games against a player she called "tenacious."
Bencic takes the ball early, plays angles Hingis can appreciate, and is considered a likely future star of the game.
"I feel like the people recognize me a little bit more sometimes, like, 'Oh, she's the girl who beat Serena.' I don't think they know my name," Bencic said, "but they just know I beat her."
Serena is seeking to complete a calendar-year Grand Slam at the U.S. Open and brought a 50-2 record in 2015 into her match against Bethanie Mattek-Sands on Friday night. Rafael Nadal was scheduled to face Fabio Fognini after that.
In other action, 2014 Wimbledon runner-up Eugenie Bouchard of Westmount, Que., got past 2014 Australian Open runner-up Dominika Cibulkova 7-6 (9), 4-6, 6-3, giving the Canadian her first three-match winning streak since January. Ekaterina Makarova of Russia, seeded 13th, was rebuffed in an attempt to get attention from a trainer for cramping in her taped-up right thigh while serving for the match, but eventually held on to beat 17th-seeded Elina Svitolina of Ukraine 6-3, 7-5.
"I was so scared," said Makarova, who will play 40th-ranked Kristina Mladenovic of France.
No. 1 Novak Djokovic and defending champion Marin Cilic moved into the fourth round. Djokovic was broken for the first time in the tournament — twice, actually — but beat No. 25 Andreas Seppi of Italy 6-3, 7-5, 7-5. Cilic put in a lot more work to edge Mikhail Kukushkin of Kazakhstan 6-7 (5), 7-6 (1), 6-3, 6-7 (3), 6-1.
Djokovic will play No. 23 Roberto Bautista Agut of Spain, whose opponent Friday, No. 14 David Goffin of Belgium, became the 13th man to stop playing a match because of injury or illness.
Djokovic improved to 11-0 against Seppi, who stunned Roger Federer at the Australian Open in January, but insisted this one was not easy.
"He wasn't playing," Djokovic said, "like he came out with the white flag."
After getting broken late in the first set Friday, Bencic looked to be making headway in the second against the 23rd-seeded Venus, breaking for a 3-1 lead with a running, down-the-line backhand passing shot that drew an errant volley.
But Venus won 21 of the last 29 points.
Looking ahead, she could face Serena early next week. Asked on court how aware she was of that, Venus said: "At this point, if you don't know, you're — I'm not even going to say. I hope we both get to the quarter-finals. I do."
Venus will face 19-year-old Anett Kontaveit of Estonia, a qualifier ranked 152nd who beat Madison Brengle of the United Sates 6-2, 3-6, 6-0. Kontaveit hadn't won a Grand Slam match until Monday.
"I have no idea how she plays or anything," Venus said. "I will try to put the ball in the court again."
Since getting to the semifinals five years ago, Venus has lost in the U.S. Open's first round once, the second round twice and the third round last year.
She was asked whether it feels "new and exciting" to be headed toward the second week of the tournament again.
"It's not new," Venus began, then paused before adding: "It's always exciting."
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Howard Fendrich, The Associated Press