For the second straight year Serena Williams was dismissed from the US Open in the semifinals. Last year, chasing a historic calendar Slam, Serena was shocked by Italian first-time Slam semifinalist Roberta Vinci.
Today, she lost once again to a player who had never before made a Slam semifinal, this time to Karolina Pliskova 6-2, 7-6(5) ending for now the chance to pass Steffi Graf for the lead in Open Era major titles with 23 and also consecutive weeks at No. 1 at 187.
Serena, who won a tough 3-set match last night over Simona Halep, appeared hobbled by a left knee injury which she said she hurt last week. She began the tournament troubled by a right shoulder, but faltered early and often, missing shots off the ground finishing with 20 winners against 31 unforced.
The loss also dropped Serena out of the No. 1 ranking for the first time since February 2013. Serena isn’t sure on the status of here knee and wasn’t interesting in discussing getting back No. 1 or her fall scheduled. She turns 35 later this month.
Afterward, Serena met the press.
Q. You had a very strong opponent tonight. What do you think didn’t go according to your plans?
SERENAS WILLIAMS: I don’t think much really went well today. I made a lot of errors and I didn’t play as well as I have been playing.
Q. Can you talk about Karolina as a player? Her serve was good today. How do you feel about her, moving around the court and return?
SERENAS WILLIAMS: I thought she was a good, all-around player.
Q. It looked like you were limping a bit out there. At one point holding your wrist. What percentage were you physically out there? I know you had a very tough match against Simona. Do you feel you were beaten up from that? Were you physically up to 100%?
SERENAS WILLIAMS: I definitely was not beat up after my quarterfinal match. But, yeah, I just — that was it.
Q. On TV Chris Evert kept suggesting you looked a little worn out from yesterday’s match. You weren’t moving and weren’t getting your racquet in position. Did you feel that at all?
SERENAS WILLIAMS: Okay, I’m not going to repeat myself. I wasn’t tired from yesterday’s match. I’m a professional player; been playing for over 20 years.
If I can’t turn around after 24 hours and play again then I shouldn’t be on tour. So I definitely wasn’t tired from yesterday’s match at all.
It wasn’t a five-hour match. I have practiced three hours, so it wasn’t that huge of a deal.
Q. People were surprised to see you in the first match of the night. Did you request to play earlier?
SERENAS WILLIAMS: I don’t know. I had plenty of time to recover, so it was fine.
Q. You said you weren’t tired, but were you injured at all? Was your left leg or knee hurting you?
SERENAS WILLIAMS: Yeah, I have been having some serious left knee problems. I wasn’t tired. Fatigue had absolutely nothing to do with it. If I was tired I should definitely get into a new career.
Q. How did the leg affect you out there tonight?
SERENAS WILLIAMS: I wasn’t able to move the way I wanted to move. When you’re injured you’re thinking of other things when you should be just playing and thinking of your shots. My mind was just a little bit everywhere. But it was what it was.
Q. When did this injury come up?
SERENAS WILLIAMS: I don’t know. I think like after the second or third round. I think it was the second round.
Q. Is there a diagnosis to it, or…
SERENAS WILLIAMS: I don’t know yet. I’d rather not say, actually. It’s fine.
Q. Your coach kind of blamed the loss on the knee. Do you feel it really, really hampered your movement? I know you’re downplaying it a bit.
SERENAS WILLIAMS: I’m not downplaying anything. Karolina played great today. I think if she had played any less then maybe I would have had a chance.
So I think I wasn’t at 100%, but I also think she played well. She deserved to win today.
Q. In the tiebreak you had two double faults to the ad court and going to the same spot. Missed four times. Anything particular going on there?
SERENAS WILLIAMS: To be honest, I don’t remember that. I remember double faulting on match point, but I don’t remember the other ones.
Q. You didn’t play at all last fall after the US Open, so you have points to make up now. Going back after the No. 1 ranking going to be a priority for you now?
SERENAS WILLIAMS: I don’t talk about that whatsoever.
Q. Just your schedule for the fall?
SERENAS WILLIAMS: Honestly, I don’t know.
Q. Were you surprised at how composed she remained throughout even the tiebreaker?
SERENAS WILLIAMS: No. I think she’s been on tour for numerous years and she’s had some good wins. She was doing so well last year, was so close in so many finals, and I think maybe this was her year to really do well, at least here at the Open.
Q. Did Venus discuss anything with you, having played her, as well?
SERENAS WILLIAMS: We talked about it a little bit, yeah.
Q. Any advice that you want to share that she gave you?
SERENAS WILLIAMS: Not really. (Smiling.)
Q. She said in the on-court interview she thought the key to the win was her serve. Would you agree with that?
SERENAS WILLIAMS: Yes, I definitely agree. I thought she served well today, and that was definitely was a big thing for her.
Q. Was it very difficult to deal with that serve?
SERENAS WILLIAMS: Today it was, yes.
Q. Did you feel like your serve sort of abandoned you tonight?
SERENAS WILLIAMS: I guess. It was — it’s all right. This is really negative. I don’t think it abandoned me. I just don’t think I served well. I definitely think I could serve better, but that’s the beauty of the sport. Always opportunities to do better.
Q. Once you broke back in the second, what was going through your mind as far as game plan and getting a foothold in the match?
SERENAS WILLIAMS: I’m always thinking about holding and breaking and holding. That’s it. I don’t really — don’t really know so much what I was thinking.
Q. I’m not sure you called the trainer out. I may be wrong about that. Had it gone to the third set, would you have called the trainer out to assess…
SERENAS WILLIAMS: Well, you know, we’ll never know, huh? (Laughter.)
Q. I appreciate very much your fair play, but even if you say it wasn’t a factor, a 7:00 pm match played for ESPN, and suddenly you have to play a match one day after the other. This reminds me a little bit CBS paying a lot of money and Super-Saturday. I would say if you think it’s fair, forget if it was a factor for you or not, if it’s fair that you have to play quarters or semifinals one day after the other. I don’t think it’s fair.
SERENAS WILLIAMS: Um, I mean, honestly, I don’t — and I’m not disagreeing with you. Actually, I am. I don’t see how it’s not unfair. Like, we play every single week. We play — I have been in Toronto or Montreal or Cincinnati where I play Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday.
I mean, if I’m not used to playing this, and I really should think of something different. I’m not going to sit here and make an excuse. Because that’s not me. Being a professional, if I can’t recover, then, you know, that’s that.
But I was totally okay. It had nothing to do with that. That’s what we do on a weekly basis.
Q. But in a Grand Slam it’s every other day.
SERENAS WILLIAMS: Not at the French Open. I played like nine matches in a row. (Laughter.)
Q. With the hampered leg, what part of your game felt most affected by that?
SERENAS WILLIAMS: Mental, because when you’re hampered you’re thinking of other things. Like I was making errors that I never make, and definitely I didn’t make in this tournament in particular. So many simple, simple shots that I easily could have made.
I just blame that on just mentally thinking about my leg and just not thinking about the shot.
Q. Kerber is going to be the oldest to debut No. 1 at 28 years old. You have been the oldest No. 1 and set a lot of records.
SERENAS WILLIAMS: I’m not talking about No. 1. Thank you.
Q. How do you compare her serve to other serves you have faced over the years? Is there anything about it that makes her particularly effective?
SERENAS WILLIAMS: Well, I think because she’s so tall it bounces high. I’m a little shorter so my serve goes through the court. Hers goes a little higher. So I think that’s the difference.
Q. Obviously you would have wanted to win this title. What do you walk away proudest of these last ten days at the US Open?
SERENAS WILLIAMS: I don’t know. I’m only really proud — you know, obviously I’m a perfectionist and I love to win. That’s when I feel my proudest.
I think I had a pretty positive attitude mostly outside of maybe my second round. I think that I could walk away with that.
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