The rematch was a mismatch.
Venus Williams followed younger sister Serena Williams in a methodical march onto a packed Arthur Ashe Stadium court.
Beneath the bright white lights, a surging Serena left big sister stranded in the shadows.
In the most commanding performance of her comeback, Serena slashed 10 aces and dropped just four points on first serve dismissing Venus, 6-1, 6-2, to charge into the US Open round of 16 for the 17th straight time.
Serena now leads the sisterly series 18-12 overall, including an 11-5 edge in their major meetings.
“Obviously I played much better today than I have since I’ve come back to playing tennis,” Serena told ESPN’s Tom Rinaldi afterward. “This was my best match since I returned, but I’ve worked for it.
“I’ve worked really, really hard this past three months, four months. Hopefully, everything will keep paying off. That’s life: you have to keep going no matter how many downs you have or how many ups you have, you have to keep working hard.”
A ruthless Serena tore through seven straight games transforming this highly-anticipated blockbuster into a 72-minute blowout.
“She played so well, I never got to really even touch any balls,” said Venus, who spoiled Serena’s comeback in Indian Wells with a 6-3, 6-4 sweep in March. “When your opponent plays like that, it’s not really anything to be upset about. She just played much better.
“The only thing I maybe could have done was put more first serves in. Even they she returned the first serve really well. Any shot that I hit great, she hit a greater shot. Not a lot I can do.”
In the end, an untouchable Serena met Venus at net for a heart-felt embrace.
“It’s not easy,” Serena said. “She’s my best friend. She means the world to me. She’s so supportive of my career and I’m extremely supportive of her career. Everytime she loses, I feel I do. It’s not easy, but it’s a tournament and we all know there’s more to life than playing tennis.”
The night began with the focus on the Williams sisters.
It ended with Serena seizing the spotlight and stamping her hold as the firm favorite to capture an Open Era-record seventh US Open crown.
The 17th-seeded Serena will play Kaia Kanepi, who toppled top-seeded Simona Halep, for a trip to her 10th consecutive Flushing Meadows quarterfinal.
The tournament began with five current or former world No. 1 players crammed into the congested top quarter of the draw.
Following first week exits of world No. 1 Halep, two-time Grand Slam champion Garbine Muguruza and Venus, Serena stands as a strong favorite to move forward.
Episode 30 of the Williams sisters’ rivalry was a star turn for Serena, whose victory equaled her 6-1, 6-2, sweep of Venus in the 2013 Charleston semifinals as the most lopsided result in their 20-year professional rivalry.
The 38-year-old Venus, who was pushed to the three-set limit in her opening-round win over 2004 champion Svetlana Kuznetsova, was often forced to counter off her back foot tonight.
“It’s the best match she’s ever played against me,” Venus said. “I don’t think I did a lot wrong. But she just did everything right. Obviously that level is definitely where she’s going to want to stay during this whole tournament.”
Father Richard Williams famously called his daughters “Ghetto Cinderellas” when they initially emerged from the public park courts of Compton, California.
Twenty years after their first professional meeting at the 1998 Australian Open, the sisters shared the court again but Serena was in no mood for fairy-tale philosophizing.
Showing fierce focus from the first ball, Serena overpowered and overwhelmed her sister belting 20 more winners (34 to 14) and nullifying one of the game’s most imposing servers with vicious returns.
Reading her sister’s slice serve with prescience, Serena won 21 of 40 points played on Venus’ first serve and converted four of 10 break points.
“Venus is like a punching bag right now,” Venus’ coach, David Witt, told ESPN’s Pam Shriver after the first set. “You can’t beat Serena when she’s gonna tee off on second serves.”
Apart from Serena rolling her ankle in the second game, this rematch of the 2017 Australian Open final was largely devoid of drama.
Dancing behind the baseline holding double break point in the second game, Serena stumbled trying to change direction and rolled her right ankle. Venus erased both break points holding to level, while younger sister asked the chair umpire to call for the trainer.
During the ensuing 10-minute break, Serena had heavy taping added to her right ankle which was already taped as is her custom.
Returning to the court with more energy and urgency as if intent on shortening points. Serena slashed a forehand swing volley for break point then broke for 3-1.
Thumping a 114 mph missle down the middle, Serena confirmed the break at 15 for 4-1.
The crowd inside Arthur Ashe Stadium, perhaps unsure of which sister to support, wasn’t fully invested at that point as if waiting for a moment that never came.
In contrast to the crowd, the six-time champion was fully engaged. Serena drilled a backhand return for break point then exploited a net-cord shot flicking a forehand past big sister for her second straight break and a 5-1 lead.
Putting her body weight behind the ball, Serena pounced from a low crouch cracking a crosscourt backhand for triple set point.
Sliding her fourth ace down the middle, younger sister stamped a one-set lead after 31 minutes permitting just four points on serve in the proces.
Breaking again to start the second set, Serena had reeled off six straight games by then.
“Every match you play, you have to win,” Venus said. “She didn’t win that match tonight because I just rolled over. She played untouchable tennis. Whoever she plays, she’s going to earn it. It’s not like people don’t try. People will try against her. I know people are going to keep that up.”
Venus finally stopped her seven-game slide for 1-2.
That was a brief reprieve.
Stepping to her left, Serena lasered a forehand return down the scoring her fourth break for 4-1.
Some sections of the crowd launched into a plaintive plea of “Let’s Go Venus!” trying to rouse the two-time champion from a 6-1, 5-1 chasm.
On her second match point, Serena swept a forehand winner closing a commanding triumph in 72 minutes.
There was no celebration from Serena, while Venus offered a brief wave to the crowd and departed quickly concluding her 20th US Open appearance.
Throughout her career, Serena has said she’ll continue to play professionally as long as Venus does. Serena continues her march toward equaling Margaret Court’s all-time record of 24 Grand Slam titles inspired by the older sister she dispatched tonight.
“I love her with all my heart; she’s the reason I’m here,” Serena said of Venus. “She’s the only reason I’m still out here so I really owe everything to her.”