Serena Williams did her part, but defending champion Sloane Stephens was upset on Tuesday at the US Open, breaking up a much-anticipated potential all-American semifinal.
The No. 17-seeded Williams beat fellow former No. 1 and No. 8 seed Karolina Pliskova 6-4, 6-3.
“I was having a baby at this time last year so I really have nothing to prove,” said Williams, who had lost to Pliskova in their most recent meeting. “I really feel now that I am playing free.”
Playing free meant having to somehow win the first set despite 22 unforced errors, eventually winning eight straight games to take control of the match.
“The crowd was really for me and I felt so bad that I wasn’t winning,” said Williams. “I said ‘I got to try even harder.’”
Williams in the semis will face No. 19 Anastajisa Sevastova, who mixed in drop shots and slice to subdue the No. 3-seeded Stephens 6-2, 6-3.
It is Sevastova’s first time in the semifinals in her third US Open quarterfinals appearance.
“I think it was third time lucky, but if I would lose, I would also be proud of myself,” the Latvian said. “Three times [in the] quarters. It’s not happening every year or every day.”
Five years ago Sevastova retired from the sport due to injuries and burn-out, but returned two years later.
“You feel happy,” she said. “I think you need some time to look, to look at this journey. It was an amazing journey, this three, four years. I had done not many goals [when I came back]. Maybe Top 100. I was thinking, ‘Okay, maybe a couple of years, play Top 100. Enjoy the game.’”
It was revenge for losing in three sets to Stephens last year at the US Open after ousting Maria Sharapova.
Wednesday’s women’s quarterfinals will see No. 20 Naomi Osaka vs. Lesia Tsurenko, and No. 14 Madison Keys vs. No. 30 Carla Suarez Navarro.
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