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Serena Williams wins U.S. Open quarterfinals, advances to semis

Anastasija Sevastova stuns defending US Open champ Sloane Stephens

Her shots lacked their usual sting, her attitude its usual conviction.

The third-seeded American lacked the swagger she showed through the opening four rounds and wilted in the sun-baked conditions at Flushing Meadows against Sevastova, who became the first Latvian woman to reach the semi-finals of the U.S. Open. She kept looking up her coach, as if seeking solutions.

A match that looked to be in question for Serena Williams early on turned into yet another dominating performance by the six-time US Open champion on Tuesday night. Not much later, the outcome was no longer in doubt, because the 23-time Grand Slam champion suddenly was in complete control.

There was a wobble for Williams as she dropped her serve in the second set, coughing up one of her five double faults on break point as Pliskova narrowed the gap to 4-1. With all the other top ten seeds now out of the tournament and Williams in ominous form, she is the heavy favourite to defeat whoever makes it through.

"I really feel like right now I'm playing free".

Serena Williams is halfway back to the U.S. Open final after winning the first set 6-3 against Anastasija Sevastova. The 36-year-old American's most recent major title came at the 2017 Australian Open, while she was pregnant.

The American returned to the tour in February and to Grand Slam action at the French Open in May, when she had to withdraw from the field with an injured chest muscle. "I said, 'I got to try even harder'".

"She's been playing really well for actually a long time", Williams said of her semi-final opponent. But regardless this has been a great road.

Williams, a six-time victor here and 23-time Grand Slam singles champion, trailed early when Pliskova broke her serve and took a 2-1 lead in the first set.

She broke again to go up 2-0 in the second set before Stephens, pleading with herself to fight, broke back.

I didn't convert. I didn't play the big points well, and you don't win matches when you don't take your opportunities.

"I've been working hard on my volleys".

Williams had lost in the semifinals in her previous two trips to NY — against Roberta Vinci in 2015 while bidding for a calendar-year Grand Slam, and against Karolina Pliskova in 2016. "I'm going to enjoy it the best I can".

Pliskova got another chance when Williams batted a forehand into the net, but another booming serve, a backhand victor and an unreturnable serve saw her negotiate the danger. Her timing was off. Tough loss a year ago. She then served her way through a love game to claw back to 4-2.

"Because she's Serena", Osaka said. The firepower was too strong for the number eight seed however with Williams firing her through to take the set 6-4.

By the end, Williams compiled a 13-3 edge in aces, and 35-12 in total winners. But she has never played Williams. She can still serve well.

"So obviously I know her game really well".

Their last meeting was at Indian Wells a year ago, when the American won 6-1, 6-4.