World No. 1 Serena Williams faced her sternest test yet at the US Open on Wednesday night, outlasting No. 5 seed Simona Halep 6-2, 4-6, 6-3 in the quarterfinals at the US Open.
Halep was truly outlasted in a physical test of a quality where both players hit more winners than unforced errors. The Romanian brought her best tennis to even the match at one-set all, but slowed considerably early in the third and was broken serving at 1-2. At that point the No. 1 put her foot on the gas, losing only one more game.
“I knew I could play a lot better and I felt I kind of lost my rhythm in the second set,” Serena said. “I’m happy to be out here in the semis, it’s going to be a great opportunity.”
The opportunity she speaks of? Finishing ahead of world No. 2 Angie Kerber, who is in the other semifinal, and can take the No. 1 ranking for the first time by winning the US Open.
Serena will next face first-time slam semifinalist and No. 10 seed Karolina Pliskova, who has an equally-big serve to the American. Serena in her on-court interview played off the pressure of Pliskova standing between her and a blockbuster final against Kerber.
“There will be a lot of aces I think in that match,” Serena said of tomorrow’s semifinal. “I look forward to it, I have nothing to lose and I’ll just go for it.”
Pliskova in her quarterfinal on Wednesday rolled another deep-slam neophyte, beating 18-year-old unseeded Ana Konjuh of Croatia 6-2, 6-2 in under an hour.
“I’m very excited to be in my first grand slam semifinal,” said the 24-year-old tattooed Pliskova. “I think [the difference in the match] was the serve.”
Konjuh was far from the player who had upset Aggie Radwanska, who she had played close before at Wimbledon, looking nervous throughout the match and wiping away tears afterwards.
Pliskova, the WTA tour ace leader, threw down to end the match, thumping an ace at 40-love. She is on a 10-match winning streak after entering the US Open off the Cincinnati title.
Look for Serena in her semifinal to attempt to move the lanky Pliskova around the court rather than power her off it.
“I’m still trying to work on my movement, which is not great,” Pliskova said after her win.
Konjuh’s upside remains huge despite her mental meltdown. Only three years ago she was raising the US Open girls’ title, a year in which she also won the Aussie Open girls’ championship.
Starting at 7 p.m. EST on Thursday night at the US Open will be the women’s semifinals, (1) Williams vs. (10) Pliskova, and (2) Kerber vs. the unseeded former No. 1 Wozniacki.
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