New York - World number one Serena Williams fended off
spirited Simona Halep on Wednesday, downing the fifth-seeded Romanian 6-2, 4-6,
6-3 to reach the US Open semi-finals.
Williams, seeking a record seventh US Open title and 23rd
Grand Slam crown, fired 18 aces en route to the triumph, which set up a
Thursday evening meeting with first-time Grand Slam semi-finalist Karolina
Pliskova for a place in Saturday's championship match.
But she made her task against 2014 French Open finalist
Halep harder with 43 unforced errors and Halep, firing on all cylinders from
the baseline took advantage.
The Romanian became the first player in the tournament to
break Williams's serve, and the first to take a set off the top seed.
After failing to convert any of a dozen break points in the
65-minute second set, Williams regained control in the third with a break for
3-1 and steamed home from there.
"I'm glad I got tested," said Williams, who saw
seven break point opportunities go by in the second game of the second set.
She had five more chances in the final game of the set,
which went to deuce eight times before Halep closed it out on her fifth set
point when Williams fired a backhand long.
"I think her level really picked up in the second, but
I had some opportunities that I didn't take.
"So what I gather from that is I really could have
played better in that second set and maybe had an opportunity to win in
"If anything, that's the biggest silver lining I
She can also take heart from her ability to produce some
massive serves when she needed them, especially after a sore right shoulder
prevented her from even practicing her serve much in the build up to the
"I feel OK," Williams said. "I'm not at 100
percent, but I'm OK. Nothing to complain too much about.
Halep was left regretting her inability to convert two break
points in the opening game of the third set.
"(If) I could take that game, I think the story of the
match would have been different," Halep said. "I am a little bit
disappointed that I had could not take the chances, but I'm also happy about
the way I stayed there and played."
Williams's semi-final against Pliskova promises more
fireworks. The 10th-seeded Czech leads the WTA tour in aces this year.
After surviving a match point en route to a fourth-round
victory over Venus Williams, Pliskova beat 18-year-old Croatian Ana Konjuh 6-2,
"I'm so excited to be in my first semi-final,"
said the 24-year-old Pliskova, who had failed to make it out of the third round
in 17 prior Grand Slam appearances.
Having broken through to the quarters Pliskova didn't waste
With a quick break under her belt in the opening game she
was able to swing freely and needed just 57 minutes to subdue Konjuh, who upset
fourth-seeded Agnieszka Radwanska in the fourth round.
"I think it was the serve," said Pliskova, who
finished off the match with two of her three aces. "My serve was very good
Konjuh, the 18-year-old who is projected to rise from 92nd
in the world to 51, couldn't be disappointed with her fortnight's work.
"I cannot be sad after all of this," she said.
"When I came here I could only imagine playing the quarters. I think it's
been a great tournament."
Despite her dearth of Grand Slam success, Pliskova is
playing with confidence after winning her biggest title to date on the hard
courts of Cincinnati.
She beat Angelique Kerber in the final to deny the German
world number two's bid to supplant Serena atop the world rankings.
Serena said she hadn't talked to her sister yet about how
best to approach Pliskova.
"I haven't even gotten that far yet, actually,"
she said. "I'm still trying to just get over this match. I'm sure Venus
will tell me something, but I'll be there. I'll be ready tomorrow."
Kerber, who booked her semi-final slot on Tuesday with a
7-5, 6-0 victory over 2015 finalist Roberta Vinci, can still nudge Serena from
No matter the outcome of Kerber's semi-final clash with
former world number one Caroline Wozniacki, Serena must now reach the final to
stretch her reign to a record-breaking 187 weeks.
If Kerber advances to the title match, Serena will have to
beat her for a seventh US Open trophy to stay number one.
Results from the 10th day of the 2016 US Open tennis championships at Flushing Meadows on Wednesday (x denotes seeded player):
Kei Nishikori (JPN x6) bt Andy Murray (GBR x2) 1-6, 6-4, 4-6, 6-1, 7-5
Serena Williams (USA x1) bt Simona Halep (ROM x5) 6-2, 4-6, 6-3
Karolina Pliskova (CZE) bt Ana Konjuh (CRO) 6-2, 6-2
Coco Vandewegh/Rajeev Ram (USA/USA x7) bt Anna-Lena Groenefeld/Robert Farah (GER/COL) 7-6 (7/4), 6-4
Laura Siegemund/Mate Pavic (GER/CRO) bt Chan Yung-Jan/Nenad Zimonjic (TPE/SRB) 7-6 (7/5), 7-5