NEW YORK (AP) — After a bad-as-can-be start, dropping the first three games, Serena Williams quickly turned things around and stretched her U.S. Open winning streak to 19 matches to get back to the semifinals.
Considered the best server in women’s tennis, the No. 1-seeded Williams was broken twice in a row at the outset Wednesday night, before taking complete control for a 6-3, 6-2 victory over 11th-seeded Flavia Pennetta of Italy.
“I don’t feel like I was doing too much wrong,” said Williams, a five-time champion at Flushing Meadows. “So I said, ‘If she keeps it up, she absolutely deserves the win.’ And I just tried to do a little better.”
Simple as that, huh?
Williams is bidding to become the first woman with three consecutive U.S. Open titles since Chris Evert took four in a row from 1975-78. The 32-year-old American also is trying to pull even with Evert and Martina Navratilova at 18 Grand Slam singles trophies.
Williams had not yet reached a major semifinal in 2014, bowing out in the fourth round at the Australian Open, the second at the French Open, and the third at Wimbledon. The last time she didn’t reach at least one Grand Slam title match in a season was 2006, when she entered only two of the sport’s top tournaments.
“Well, honestly, I’ve had a tough year in the majors and I’ve (lost to) some great players that weren’t in the top 10,” Williams said. “So you can never underestimate anyone.”
On Friday, Williams will meet 17th-seeded Ekaterina Makarova, who defeated 2012 and 2013 runner-up Victoria Azarenka 6-4, 6-2. The other women’s semifinal will be No. 10 Caroline Wozniacki of Denmark against unseeded Peng Shuai of China.
One of these is not like the others: Williams is the only member of that quartet with a Grand Slam title. Wozniacki, the runner-up at the 2009 U.S. Open, is the only other woman left who’s even participated in a major semifinal.
Earlier Wednesday, Kei Nishikori became the first man from Japan to reach the U.S. Open semifinals in 96 years, outlasting third-seeded Stan Wawrinka of Switzerland 3-6, 7-5, 7-6 (7), 6-7 (5), 6-4.
That match went 4 hours, 15 minutes, and the 10th-seeded Nishikori managed to shake off any lingering exhaustion from his previous victory, which lasted 4:19 and ended at 2:26 a.m. Tuesday, equaling the latest finish in tournament history.
Nishikori began slowly against the Australian Open champion, but eventually got his bearings and used crisp returns and strong net play to edge ahead.
“Actually, I started a little bit tight, but my body was OK,” Nishikori said in an on-court interview. “I don’t know how I finished … but I’m very happy.”
In the semifinals, Nishikori will face No. 1 Novak Djokovic or No. 8 Andy Murray, who faced each other Wednesday night.