Serena Williams closed one chapter on her epic Grand Slam story at the US Open on Thursday while Victoria Azarenka triumphed in a politically-charged match.

For the first time since 2018, Serena and elder sister Venus revived the partnership which has brought them 14 doubles titles at the majors.

However, their hopes of collecting a third crown in New York were dashed in a 7-6 (5), 6-4 defeat to Czech pairing Linda Noskova and Lucie Hradecka.

The loss leaves 40-year-old Serena free to focus on what is widely expected to be the final singles campaign of her landmark 27-year career before retirement.

On Friday, the 23-time Slam singles winner will face Australia’s Ajla Tomljanovic for a place in the fourth round.

Serena and her 42-year-old sister went down fighting, clawing back from 1-4 down in the second set before the Czech pair steadied the ship.

“Im still in shock that we won because this is the first time we played together,” said Hradecka.

“I’m so sorry for you that we beat them but we are so happy that we did it.”

Meanwhile, Azarenka triumphed against Marta Kostyuk 6-2, 6-3 in a match dominated by bitter exchanges over the conflict in Ukraine.

Last week, Belarusian star Azarenka was axed from an exhibition event aimed at raising money for the war-ravaged country.

Ukraine’s Kostyuk had refused to take part in protest at the presence of Azarenka who she has criticised for a perceived failure to condemn the invasion of her home country.

Belarus is a close ally of Russia and has allowed Moscow to use its territory to launch attacks into Ukraine.

No handshake

The tension between the two was evident at the end of their tie on Court 17 with Kostyuk offering just a touch of racquets instead of the customary post-match handshake.

“How did it make me feel? It’s not the most important thing in the world right now,” said Azarenka.

Kostyuk, the 20-year-old World No 65, said a handshake would not have been appropriate.

“I genuinely wanted to warn her that I’m not going to shake her hand,” she said.

“She never came up to me personally to tell me her opinion, what she thinks (about the war).”

Away from the controversy, World No 1 and French Open champion Iga Swiatek cruised into the third round with a 6-3, 6-2 win over 2017 champion Sloane Stephens.

Paula Badosa, the fourth seed and potential semifinal opponent of Swiatek, suffered another miserable return to the city of her birth.

The Spaniard’s failure to get beyond the second round will stretch for another year after losing 6-7 (5), 6-1, 6-2 to Petra Martic of Croatia.

Sixth seed Aryna Sabalenka, a semifinalist in 2021, came back from 1-5 down in the second set and saved two match points to defeat Kaia Kanepi, 2-6, 7-6 (8), 6-4.

China will have four women in the last 32 for the first time at a Slam after Zheng Qinwen defeated Anastasia Potapova and Yuan Yue got the better of Irina-Camelia Begu.

Zhang Shuai and Wang Xiyu had already booked their spots in the next stage.

Alcaraz through

Spanish teenager Carlos Alcaraz dug deep to save 13 of 14 break points to defeat Federico Coria of Argentina.

World No 4 Alcaraz, a quarterfinalist in 2021, went through 6-2, 6-1, 7-5 on the back of 46 winners and will next face Jenson Brooksby of the United States.

It was the 46th victory of the year for the 19-year-old, tying him with Stefanos Tsitsipas for the best stretch.

Also going through was 2014 champion Marin Cilic, a 6-3, 7-6 (4), 6-3 winner over Albert Ramos Vinolas.

Cameron Norrie and Dan Evans reached the third round giving Britain four men in the last 32 in New York for the first time since 1933.

Seventh seed Cameron Norrie saw off Portugal’s Joao Sousa 6-4, 6-4, 7-6 (4) while Dan Evans defeated James Duckworth of Australia 6-3, 6-2, 4-6, 6-4.

Andy Murray and Jack Draper booked their places in the third round on Wednesday.

Nadal through to third round

Rafael Nadal overcame a freak injury scare when he accidentally hit himself with his own racquet to reach the US Open third round.

The Spaniard defeated Italy’s Fabio Fognini 2-6, 6-4, 6-2, 6-1 but only after suffering a bizarre self-inflicted injury when leading 3-0 in the fourth set.

Nadal goes on to face France’s Richard Gasquet against whom he boasts a 17-0 career record after coming through his late night scrap which saw a total of 15 breaks of serve and 97 unforced errors.

US Open results on Thursday (x denotes seed; players representing Russia and Belarus are banned from competing under the name or flag of their countries):

Men’s singles second round

Ilya Ivashka bt Hubert Hurkacz (POL x8) 6-4, 4-6, 7-6 (7/5), 6-3

Lorenzo Musetti (ITA x26) bt Gijs Brouwer (NED) 6-7 (1/7), 6-3, 6-4, 6-2

Brandon Nakashima (USA) bt Grigor Dimitrov (BUL x17) 7-6 (7/5), 7-5, 6-3

Jannik Sinner (ITA x11) bt Christopher Eubanks (USA) 6-4, 7-6 (10/8), 6-2

Marin Cilic (CRO x15) bt Albert Ramos Vinolas (ESP) 6-3, 7-6 (7/4), 6-3

Dan Evans (GBR x20) bt James Duckworth (AUS) 6-3, 6-2, 4-6, 6-4

Jenson Brooksby (USA) bt Borna Coric (CRO x25) 6-4, 7-6 (12/10), 6-1

Carlos Alcaraz (ESP x3) bt Federico Coria (ARG) 6-2, 6-1, 7-5

Cameron Norrie (GBR x7) bt Joao Sousa (POR) 6-4, 6-4, 7-6 (7/4)

Holger Rune (DEN x28) bt John Isner (USA) - walkover 

Denis Shapovalov (CAN x19) bt Roberto Carballes Baena (ESP) 6-4, 4-6, 6-3, 6-2

Andrey Rublev (x9) bt Kwon Soon-woo (KOR) 6-3, 6-0, 6-4

Diego Schwartzman (ARG x14) bt Alexei Popyrin (AUS) 7-6 (7/3), 7-5, 7-6 (8/6)

Frances Tiafoe (USA x22) bt Jason Kubler (AUS) 7-6 (7/3), 7-5, 7-6 (7/2)

Richard Gasquet (FRA) bt Miomir Kecmanovic (SRB x32) 6-2, 6-4, 4-6, 6-4

Rafael Nadal (ESP x2) bt Fabio Fognini (ITA) 2-6, 6-4, 6-2, 6-1

Women’s singles second round

Iga Swiatek (POL x1) bt Sloane Stephens (USA) 6-3, 6-2

Lauren Davis (USA) bt Ekaterina Alexandrova (x28) 0-6, 6-4, 7-6 (10/5)

Jule Niemeier (GER) bt Yulia Putintseva (KAZ) 6-4, 6-3

Zheng Qinwen (CHN) bt Anastasia Potapova 7-6 (7/4), 7-6 (7/3)

Garbine Muguruza (ESP x9) bt Linda Fruhvirtova (CZE) 6-0, 6-4

Petra Kvitova (CZE x21) bt Anhelina Kalinina (UKR) - walkover

Yuan Yue (CHN) bt Irina-Camelia Begu (ROM) 6-3, 7-6 (8/6)

Jessica Pegula (USA x8) bt Aliaksandra Sasnovich 6-4, 6-4

Petra Martic (CRO) bt Paula Badosa (ESP x4) 6-7 (5/7), 6-1, 6-2

Victoria Azarenka (x26) bt Marta Kostyuk (UKR) 6-2, 6-3

Karolina Pliskova (CZE x22) bt Marie Bouzkova (CZE) 6-3, 6-2

Belinda Bencic (SUI x13) bt Sorana Cirstea (ROM) 3-6, 7-5, 6-2

Alize Cornet (FRA) bt Katerina Siniakova (CZE) 6-1, 1-6, 6-3

Danielle Collins (USA x19) bt Cristina Bucsa (ESP) 6-2, 7-5

Clara Burel (FRA) bt Alison Van Uytvanck (BEL) 6-4, 4-6, 6-4

Aryna Sabalenka (x6) bt Kaia Kanepi (EST) 2-6, 7-6 (10/8), 6-4