Serena Williams remains on track on chasing her first title in three years at the ASB Classic in Auckland where she wore down a tenacious Laura Siegemund on Friday, 6-4 6-3, to set up a semi-final showdown with rising star and compatriot, Amanda Anisimova.
I like running down drop-shots, so I don’t mind playing against players who hit drop-shots. I’m very fast, especially moving forward. It’s one of my strengths, so I actually don’t mind it. Serena Williams
Although still troubled by the Auckland wind, Williams says she is determined to prove herself this week as she uses the competition to fine-tune ahead of the Australian Open where she is looking to equal Margaret Court’s record of 24 Grand Slam titles.
Siegemund took out another US teen prodigy, Coco Gauff, to reach the final 8 and kept up the pressure until the first set hit 4-4, when Williams switched up a gear.
The German claimed her own service break early in the second set but Williams broke back to level at 3-3 and then commanded the next 3 games to take the match after 90 minutes.
Coming into Auckland, Serena’s main goal was to win more than one match, after her 2017 appearance was cut short in the second round.
Now she has scored solid wins over Camila Giorgi, Christina McHale and Siegemund to reach her first final 4 of the year.
“It was good for me to just fight, you know,” Serena later told the media. “She has a really good game, and she stepped up and hit a lot of good winners, so it wasn’t really easy.
“I just had to step up and play a little better, and hopefully get through it.”
The 23-time Grand Slam winner struck 26 winners to Siegemund’s 20, and outpaced her with 6 aces to 1.
She remained collected under the swirling conditions, weathering an opponent with a penchant for disrupting rallies with variety and touch.
“You try to have a more positive attitude, but I got a little negative at the end. It was just so windy,” Serena admitted.
“But I like running down drop-shots, so I don’t mind playing against players who hit drop-shots. I’m very fast, especially moving forward. It’s one of my strengths, so I actually don’t mind it.”
Williams is also playing doubles this week with her good friend Caroline Wozniacki, reaching the doubles final on Friday, and has raised her tally to 7 victories under her belt, thus far, perfect preparation for the Australian Open.
“The body’s feeling great. I said I wanted to play singles and doubles here so I knew what I was going to be up against and I’m happy to still be in the tournament,” Serena said.
“I definitely feel that [I’m starting to get into good shape for the Australian Open], and I feel like my match yesterday [against McHale] was great.
“It’s great that I went three sets, and it’s great that I ran so much. I came out today just overall feeling better and doing better.
“Especially the match fitness – I’m super fit, but match fitness is a little different, so I think all these matches are really helping.”
Up next, Serena awaits the No 3 seed Anisimova, who brought an end to Eugenie Bouchard’s run.
The Canadian, 25, a former World No 5 who was wild-carded into the draw, is now ranked 262 after a 2019 season in which she tumbled down the rankings.
She lost 12 straight first-round matches at one point last year, but now is projected to rise to No 211 in the rankings when they are released on Monday.
The two wins this week in Auckland are Bouchard’s first victories above a 125K event since last February in Dubai.
Anisimova, who is ranked 25 in the world and is a rising star of American tennis, came through the error-strewn three-set joust to achieve her ‘lifelong dream’ of playing Williams.
“I said before the tournament in an interview that my biggest wish is to play her before she retires so this is the happiest I’ve ever been,” she said.
She and Bouchard survived on service breaks throughout their close encounter, converting 13 of 30 break points before the 18-year-old eventually won, 6-2 3-6 6-4.
Meanwhile, former World No 1 Caroline Wozniacki overcame defending champion and 4th seed Julia Goerges, 6-1 6-4, to also make the final 4 and a semi-final clash with unheralded American Jessica Pegula.
Pegula, who is yet to face a seeded opponent in the tournament, was up 6-0, 3-2 against Alizé Cornet when the Frenchwoman retired hurt with a thigh injury.
In their 4th career meeting on New Zealand soil, Wozniacki handed Goerges her first loss at the ASB Classic in 3 years.
The great Dane, the No 5 seed in Auckland, overcame the two-time defending champion, 6-1 6-4, to advance to the semis.
Wozniacki never lost serve in the match, saving all 3 break points she faced, as Goerges struggled to penetrate the Dane’s defences in the blustery conditions.
“I’ve had so many tough matches against Julia in the past, and I knew this one was going to be tough as well,” Wozniacki said after the match.
“She has a big serve and big shots, so I needed to be ready for every point. I’ve been serving really well this week, so I hope it can continue.”
Despite 24 winners, the two-time champion racked up 26 unforced errors, outpacing Wozniacki, who hit 9 winners to 11 unforced, in both categories, and her dropped serve 3 times.
Although Goerges battled hard in the second set, the German lost 4 of the match’s final 5 games, sending Wozniacki into the semis to face Pegula, the unseeded World No 82.