Serena Williams Rallies to Reach US Open Final Four vs Azarenka, Medvedev to Meet Thiem in Semis
(September 9, 2020) In the all-mom battle, Serena Williams rallied from a set and a break deficit to beat unranked Tsvetana Pironkova 4-6, 6-3, 6-2 on Wednesday to reach her 11 straight US Open semifinal.
“In the beginning, I was a little fatigued, for whatever reason,” the soon-to-be 39-year-old Williams said in her on-court interview, “Obviously I can’t do that if I want to keep winning, so I need to figure that out.”
“The first set I think I was in control of the match,” Pironkova said to media. “I was doing all kinds of shots, and everything went in my way.
“But, you know, I was expecting it’s not going to last forever. I was expecting that she’s going to try different things and she’s going to put more power in her shots, and that’s what she did.
“Her serve, obviously it’s incredible weapon in tennis terms. There were a lot less unforced errors in the second set, and in the third set it was, like, no errors at all.”
One of the key points in the match came in the seventh game of the second set a point that was 24 strokes that Williams won and then won the next point to break for a 5-3 lead.
From 3-3 in the second set, Williams won five straight games to take command of the match a 4-6, 6-3, 2-0. She had an additional break in the seventh game.
Williams said that the early break in the third set was the other key point in the match. “I think that was definitely a really important game, because I was able to break her,” Williams said. “Although I was still holding serve, it would have been a different match serving at 5-4 as opposed to serving at 5-2. So it was really important.”
“It just shows me how tough moms are. Whenever you can birth a baby, honestly, you can do anything,” Williams said after the match. Williams’ daughter Olympia is three and Pironkova’s son Alexander is two.
The Bulgarian Pironkova, 32, is playing her first tournament in three years, having taken maternity leave in 2017 and getting into the main draw of the tournament under a protected ranking.
“You play a match and you go home and you’re still changing diapers… It’s like a double life. It’s really surreal,” said Williams.
In something one does not see very often, the right-handed Williams hit two returns left-handed during the match and won both points.
“Actually been hitting a little lefty in my practice but not on purpose,” Williams commented. “I noticed the other day, like, I hit a lefty shot and I was just in practice being super intense, and I guess it came through in the match.
“So when you’re in a position like that, and I was just trying to stay, this is the quarterfinals of a Grand Slam, and I was just trying to do everything I can whether righty or lefty.”
Williams hit 44 winners in the match, 20 of them aces.
The six-time US Open champion stands just two wins away from claiming her 24th major title.
On Thursday she’ll face unseeded former finalist Victoria Azarenka.
Victoria Azarenka is on a 10-match winning streak in the US Open bubble which includes her win at the Western & Southern Open, played in New York. The woman from Belarus reached her first US open semifinal since 2013 with a 6-1, 6-0 win over No. 16 seed Elise Mertens.
Azarenka lost her serve in the first game of the match and won the next 12 straight games.
Azarenka will play Serena Williams for a shot at the final.
“Can it get any better? For me it cannot,“ Azarenka said after the match. “It’s an amazing opportunity for me to play against a great champion and my friend. I’m excited. It’ll be fun for me.”
“I love playing against Serena, ” Azarenka said in her news conference. “I think we have one of the best matches – at least that I played in my career – against her. We always played on big stages. It was a lot of big fights. She’s one of the players who push me to the limit, who makes me better. I’m excited for that.
“It’s been a while since we played. I think the last time was, what is it, Indian Wells. I think we both were not really playing well at that time. I think the semifinal of a Grand Slam is a different stage. It’s going to be a different fight. I’m looking forward to it.”
The two-time major winner from Belarus is one of nine mothers in the US Open.
“I think she played very consistent. Also, you know, I tried to play aggressive, but she had everything under control. I feel like I needed to do a little bit more.
“Actually the games were pretty close, but still I couldn’t finish it out so the score is a little bit uneven. I mean, I didn’t really play a bad match. It was just not good enough today. She played really well, no mistakes. I mean, her serve was working. Like, she came really into the match with her serve. It was very difficult to find solutions,” Mertens said in her news conference.
In men’s play, a match between long time friends and fellow Russians, third seed Daniil Medvedev beat No. 10 seed Andrey Rublev 7-6(6), 6-3, 7-6(5) to reach the semifinals.
Rublev led in the first set tiebreak 6-3, when Medvedev won the next five straight points to take the set and switch the momentum of the match.
“I had good chances in the first set, and Daniil played well there,” Rublev said. “I missed a little bit out at 6-5, but it’s part of the sport. It’s a game.
“But, yeah. But for sure top players they will not do the things that I did after the set.”
“Of course I’m grateful and I’m thankful for amazing tournament, that I win great matches, that I did quarters for second time of my life.
“Of course I’m thankful for this a lot, and so time to learn and to improve for the next tournaments.”
“I’m satisfied with everything today, ” last year’s US Open finalist said. “I think it was a really high quality match.
“I started, as I always do, trying to see what he does, a little bit defensively. Then during the match I felt like I needed to change it because he was actually better than me in defense today, and he was controlling the pace of the rally when we were playing slow.
“I needed to put it up, and it worked a lot. I was making a lot of winners I saw after the match, which I think is amazing when we play with Rublev. That I had more winners than him, it’s something unbelievable for me. But it shows that I was able to really adjust my game during the match and do it in a right way.”
Medvedev will play No. 2 Dominic Thiem in the semifinals. Thiem defeated Alex de Minaur 6-1, 6-2, 6-4.
More to follow….