New York City, USA: Serena Williams has reached the semifinals at the U.S. Open for the 12th time in her career. Serena Williams defeated Karolina Pliskova, 6-4, 6-3 at Arthur Ashe Stadium Flushing Meadows in New York on Tuesday.
Pliskova held serve, but Williams served for the match in emphatic fashion for her first victory over a top 10 opponent since January 2017.
Down 2-4 in the first set, Williams reeled off eight straight games and then held on to take the match. She closed it out with her 13th ace.
Pliskova, the No. 8 seed, was the last top-10 woman remaining. No. 14 Madison Keys, a finalist here last year, is now the highest seeded in singles.
Williams is seeded 17th, higher than No. 26 ranking, as she works her way back after giving birth to her daughter last September.
But there is no doubt she is the favorite. Williams, a six-time U.S. Open champion, has reached the semifinals or better in her last nine appearances at the tournament.
She will play No. 19 seed Anastasija Sevastova on Thursday night.
Serena Williams was broken in the third game of the first set against Karolina Pliskova, but rallied to win the last four games and claim the set, 6-4.
With the loss of third-seeded Sloane Stephens earlier Tuesday, Pliskova is the only remaining top-10 seed in the women’s singles tournament.
Karolina Pliskova beat Serena Williams in the U.S. Open semifinals two years ago on her way to the final.
Last time they met, Pliskova upset Williams in the 2016 semifinals on the same court and in the early stages of this match threatened to repeat the feat before Williams reeled off eight straight games to put the result almost certainly beyond doubt.
Pliskova staged a brief comeback midway through the second set but Williams served her way out of trouble, going on to win in one hour and 26 minutes.
“I felt so bad because everyone was cheering and I wasn’t winning so I thought I gotta try harder, I gotta do harder,” Williams told the crowd during her on-court interview.
“I feel like right now I’m playing free, because I was having a baby this time last year so I have nothing to prove. I’m just on my way (again) on the tour and just doing the best I can.”
Next up for the 23-time Grand Slam champion in Anastastija Sevastova, who caused a shock with her straight-sets dismissal of defending champion Sloane Stephens.
The Latvian plays a game reminiscent of Roberta Vinci, the Italian who stunned Williams in the 2015 semifinals when the American was just two wins from completing a vaunted calendar-year Grand Slam.
“I want to just be able to get past the semis here – it’s been a couple of rough semis for me (in my last two Opens) but regardless this has been a great road and I’m really excited,” said Williams, who hasn’t gotten beyond the last four since winning the title in 2014.
In the opening few games of the match Serena struggled with her timing, patience and footwork, frequently pulling the trigger too early in rallies against the rock-solid Czech.
The six-time champion produced a glut of errors in the opening stages before composing herself to break back at 4-4 with some monstrous ground strokes.
Into the fifth game, Williams already led the unforced error tally 15-4.
After Pliskova survived two break points to hold for a 4-2 lead, Williams settled. And she never looked back.
She served better, hit bigger and moved more effectively than the eighth seed, who was reduced to the role of a spectator at times as Williams churned through game after game. Incredibly, Pliskova did not hit an ace until the sixth game of the second set, which helped her hold for 2-4.
When Pliskova reached 0-40 in the very next game, the tide appeared to be turning back in her favour.
But Serena served her way out of trouble to extend her lead to 5-2 and two games later slammed three aces – including her 13th on match point – to complete a resounding victory.