New York | Serena sails into semis
Serena Williams is a woman on a mission, chasing her record-equalling 24th Grand Slam title in New York.
I've been working on my speed, getting shots, I didn't give too many chances in the match Serena Williams
She sailed into the semi-finals with the loss of just one game, blowing away China’s Qiang Wang, 6-1 6-0, and making sure she did not fall into the trap that had sunk Ashleigh Barty’s hopes in the 4th round.
Wang, seeded 18th, did not manage to hit a single winner as she was taken apart in her first major quarter-final.
It was the American’s 100th career victory at the US Open and, at 44 minutes, the match was the quickest at this year’s championships.
“It’s really unbelievable,” said Williams, 38. “When I first started here I was like, 16. I never thought I would get to 100 wins and still be here but I love what I do.
“When I’m playing someone I know is playing well I know I have to step up or go home, and I want to stay here.”
Williams showed no ill-effects from rolling her ankle during her 4th-round win over Petra Martic.
“I’m feeling good,” she added. “It’s been a tough year but, physically, I’m feeling great and more than anything, I’m just having fun when I come out here.”
She tied Simona Halep’s 3rd-round victory over Viktoria Kuzmova in Madrid for the shortest WTA match of the year.
“It feels good,” Williams stated in her post-match press conference. “It feels like, okay, this is what I’ve been training for. This is how hard I’ve been working. It feels like, you know, hard work pays off when that happens.”
The American was in devastating form from start to finish, hitting 25 winners to just 10 unforced errors, and she never faced a break point, having won 19 of 21 points on her first serve, a cool 90 percent.
“I’m okay to play a lot of matches in a row; I’m okay to play 44-minute matches,” said Williams. “I think at this stage in my career I have so much experience of playing super-long matches and super-short matches, I’m pretty much ready for everything.”
Wang, the Chinese No 1 upset World No 2 Barty in the previous round, but was unable to replicate that form because Williams’s dominance from the outset.
The World No 18 did not hit any winners during the clash and lost all 5 of the break points she faced.
“I’ve been working on my speed, getting shots,” Williams said. “I didn’t give [Wang] too many chances in the match.”
Williams was immediately in overwhelming form, firing winners at will to hold in the opening game, then quickly breaking for 2-0 after a deft drop-shot was followed up by a passing winner on break point.
The American swiftly broke again for 4-0 as Wang was left reeling by Williams’s pinpoint aggressive play.
The American manoeuvred to 5-0 and was 2 points away from the set at 0-30 in the next game before Wang steadied herself, extending the rallies and clinching a service hold to get on the board at 5-1.
It did not send Williams off course, as she blasted a forehand winner, an error-forcing backhand, and an ace to reach triple set point in the next game.
Williams needed only the 1 chance to attain the one-set lead after another fabulous forehand forced an error from Wang.
She was nearly untouchable in the first set, winning 92 percent of points on her first serve, converting both of her 2 break points, and getting through all of her service games without facing a break point.
Williams’s level of play was just as imposing in the second, as she collected 24 of the 28 points contested in that set en route to the bagel.
The American held complete control from the start, firing a backhand crosscourt winner to break Wang to love in the first game, and cruising on to reach 3-0.
The former World No 1 stayed impenetrable to the match’s conclusion, knocking off a forehand winner to break Wang for a 5th and final time and hit 5-0, and firing 1 last winner off of that wing to convert her first match point and wrap up the quarter-final victory.
She now takes on No 5 seed Elina Svitolina of Ukraine in a semi-final battle between the 2 highest-seeded players remaining in the draw, after the Ukrainian ousted Britain’s Johanna Konta earlier on Tuesday.
Serena leads their head-to-head 4-1, but Svitolina won their most recent meeting, causing a shock upset at the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro when Williams was World No 1.
“[Svitolina] is obviously a fighter,” said Williams. “She gets a lot of balls back.
“She doesn’t make a lot of mistakes. She’s one of those players that does everything really well. So I have to do everything well, too.
“She’s had a great year,” Serena added. “She made the semis at Wimbledon and I feel she wants to go one step further, so I feel I’ll have to come out and play really well.”
It took 100 Svitolina attritional minutes to get past Konta.
“I don’t think that I was expecting, going into this tournament, that I’m going to make semis,” Svitolina said.
“I’m just taking one match at a time. It’s a Grand Slam. There is lots of pressure, lots of expectations from people. But you also put lots of pressure on yourself.
“You have to just go out there, do your job, and don’t think too much what’s going on around you, and who handle it the best wins.
“Definitely it’s a big challenge to play against her. Obviously Serena is amazing champion. It’s probably it’s going to be really tough against her.”