Serena Williams will play her sister and fellow five-time Wimbledon singles champion Venus on the grass courts of London for the first time in six years after she escaped an upset attempt by Britain’s Heather Watson.
Serena, the women’s top seed, was down two breaks in the final set and was two points away from defeat before recovering to beat the 59th-ranked Watson, 6-2, 4-6, 7-5.
“That probably was my toughest match” on Centre Court, five-time singles champion Williams said in a televised interview. “She was playing in front of her home crowd. She should have won. She really gave her all.”
The 33-year-old American got broken five times and made 33 unforced errors. Watson had 11 errors.
After winning her 20th major singles title at Roland Garros last month, Serena just needs the Wimbledon title to complete a second so-called “Serena slam” of all four majors in a row.
Earlier on Court No. 2, Venus eased past Serbia’s Aleksandra Krunic, 6-3, 6-2 to move to fourth round for the first time since 2011.
It will be the 26th meeting between the siblings, who contested four Wimbledon finals between 2002 and 2009. Serena leads 14-11, including wins in the 2002, 2003 and 2009 finals. Venus, 35, won the last of five Wimbledon singles titles in
2008. Venus won their last match, on hard court in Montreal last year.
“She’s in better form that I am,” Serena said about her sister. “At least one of us will be in the quarterfinals.”
Serving for a 4-0 lead in the decider, Watson got nervous as she handed Williams a break point with a forehand long that landed close to the line judge’s chair at the back of the court. Williams screamed as she finally broke on her fifth attempt with a blistering forehand that drew the error.
Serving at 3-2, Watson squandered a 40-0 lead as Williams’ groundstrokes finally found their range. After clawing the second break back with a drive volley, Williams was forced to save yet another break point before holding for 4-3.
Once again, Williams struggled on her serve, getting broken for a fifth time in the match to go down 5-4 as Watson stayed consistent in the rallies.
Serving for the biggest win of her life, Watson was two points away from victory before Williams broke back for 5-5 and then held to love in the next game. After missing two returns on her first two match points, Williams converted the third with a backhand return won on a challenge.
Earlier in the day, defending men’s champion Novak Djokovic defeated Australia’s Bernard Tomic to reach the last 16 for the seventh year in a row.
The 28-year-old Serb won 6-3, 6-3, 6-3, running his record against Tomic, 22, to five victories in six attempts. Djokovic is trying to win his third title on the grass-court event in London.
“It’s not easy to break players like Bernard, who have a good serve,” Djokovic told reporters. “I managed to get a lot of returns back in play. I executed tactically everything I intended before the match to move him around the court, mix up the pace, not really give him the same look.”
Former winner Maria Sharapova also won.
Two-time grand slam champion Stan Wawrinka -- who last month beat top ranked Djokovic to win the French Open -- got past Spain’s Fernando Verdasco to advance at the All England Club, while Australian Nick Kyrgios beat Milos Raonic, the highest-seeded man to lose so far in the tournament.
Wawrinka won 6-4, 6-3, 6-4, and said he’s played three perfect matches so far this tournament.
“I have the results so far: Three sets each match,” he told journalists. “That’s why I’m saying it’s perfect matches. In grand slams, you have to win and to win in three sets, it’s great.”
Kyrgios, 20, beat seventh seeded Raonic, last year’s semifinalist from Canada, 5-7, 7-5, 7-6 (7-3), 6-3. It was the first time he’s beaten the 24-year-old, having lost last year at Roland Garros and Wimbledon.
“I feel as if I’ve made physically, massive improvements,” he said. “I wasn’t struggling at all. If it was to go into a fifth, I would have still felt confident. I didn’t want to lose again, I lost to him twice at grand slams. I played some really, really good tennis.”
John Isner, who holds the record for the longest match in Wimbledon history, saw his match with Marin Cilic go into Saturday after it was suspended because of darkness, tied 10-all in the fifth set.
Earlier, No. 21 Richard Gasquet beat the 11 seed Grigor Dimitrov in straight sets on Centre Court. Next, he’ll meet Kyrgios, who knocked out Rafael Nadal last year as a wild card.
Sharapova, the 2004 Wimbledon champion, beat Romania’s Irina-Camelia Begu 6-4, 6-3 in the third round. The Russian is one of four former women’s champions in the field, with the Williams sisters and Petra Kvitova of the Czech Republic.
“With each match I’ve had a different type of opponent on different courts, I’ve been handling it quite well,” Sharapova said. “Today was another match against a big server and a big hitter. On grass that can be quite dangerous. I was quite happy that I was able to win in a solid two sets.”
Coco Vandeweghe, an unseeded American, defeated No. 22 Sam Stosur of Australia 6-2, 6-0. Belinda Bencic of Switzerland beat Bethanie Mattek-Sands 7-5, 7-5 and Sloane Stephens lost to French Open finalist Lucie Safarova of the Czech Republic in three sets to leave four American women in the draw.
Denis Kudla of the U.S. beat Colombia’s Santiago Giraldo 6-2, 6-7 (3-7), 2-6, 6-1, 6-3.