NEW YORK -- Enjoying 143 more minutes of the Williams sisters than the last time the doubles pair took the court, the capacity crowd squeezed into the US Open Grandstand Thursday and showed its appreciation with the equivalent of a giant group hug.
The show of support, as well as the old grittiness of a pair that has combined for 13 Grand Slam doubles titles, helped carry Venus and Serena to a 7-6 (0), 6-7 (4), 6-1 win over Wimbledon finalists and seventh-seeded Timea Babos and Kristina Mladenovic in a grueling 2 hours and 34 minutes.
It was a welcome sight for the Williams sisters' fans after their last doubles match, which lasted three games and 11 minutes in the second round at Wimbledon. It included four double faults by Serena, whose disorientation was attributed to a viral illness.
"We love Grand Slam titles," Venus said. "It feels good to win them -- singles, doubles, mixed, whatever we can get."
It was a good day for the sisters, a good week thus far as well, with both into the third round of singles here after Serena's vanquishing of American Vania King 6-1, 6-0 earlier in the afternoon.
It has been a dramatic turnaround for Serena since that troubling Wimbledon. Since losing there in the third round of singles to Alize Cornet, she has won 14 of 15 singles matches, with titles at Stanford and Cincinnati, and has lost just five games through two matches here.
"I've been working really hard," she said. "The results just hadn't been coming in the Slams. I started to get some really good results this summer, and that's given me a lot of confidence going into this last Grand Slam of the year."
On Thursday, Serena, the two-time defending US Open singles champion, won her 16th straight singles match here, losing just three points on her first serve while saving both break points against her.
While she is attempting to equal Chris Evert's achievement of winning three straight US Open titles (Evert won four straight from 1975 to '78), and trying to tie Evert's and Martina Navratilova's 18 career Grand Slams, Williams also is trying to reach her first Slam quarterfinal of the year.
But Williams said she can hardly be upset about being "stuck at 17" for now.
"I never even thought I would have as many as I even have," she said. "Who am I? I'm just an average person. I never thought this would be me. So for me, it's incredible. I never really had a number. Obviously now that things are reachable, I do think of different things. But in the big picture, it's just all an amazing, amazing ride."
Williams next plays her third straight American opponent in Varvara Lepchenko. But the length of Thursday's grueling doubles match could be problematic for Venus, whose conservation of energy is particularly important as she manages Sjogren's syndrome.
She plays her third-round match Friday afternoon against 13th-seeded Sara Errani, but both sisters insist they did not consider dropping out of doubles. Their last title together here was in 2009.
"To be honest, doubles helps me in my singles game," Serena said. "If it comes to a point where I don't feel good, then I probably wouldn't play. But it really helps me make better returns, know what to do better. So that's why I've always actually played doubles."
Watching the two interact on the doubles court, where hand slaps and smiles are frequent, it's not difficult to see that sisterly bonding is at play as well.
"It's a great experience for us because we get to play together and we get to, you know, be together," Serena said. "We just get to talk and spend some time together. We don't get to spend as much time together as we want to because we're always doing our thing."