NEW YORK, September 4, 2019 (by Michael Dickens)
Serena Williams enjoyed arguably her most dominant performance since giving birth to her daughter, Olympia, two years ago this month as she advanced to the United States Open semifinals with a 6-1, 6-0 rout of 18th seed Wang Qiang of China on Arthur Ashe Stadium Tuesday night. It was one of the cleanest matches – and at 44 minutes, the shortest – of this New York fortnight.
The win marked the 100th US Open victory for Williams, who won the first of her 23 Grand Slam singles title on Arthur Ashe Stadium in 1999 as a 17-year-old. She has not lost before the semifinals at the US Open since 2007. Now, the 37-year-old Williams finds herself just four sets from a record-tying 24th major singles title that would tie the record set by Margaret Court in 1973.
With just six players remaining from the original 128-player draw that began play last week, Williams is the only player left in the field who has won a Grand Slam title. Although Williams hasn’t won a major since the 2017 Australian Open, when she was two months pregnant – and she lost last year’s controversial US Open final to Naomi Osaka – she’s a favorite to win her seventh US Open singles crown when the final is played Saturday afternoon.
“I love what I do. It’s so special. I don’t want to let it go,” said Williams during a post-match television interview with ESPN’s Rennae Stubbs. “It’s really unbelievable. I never thought I would reach 100.”
In advancing to her 13th US Open semifinal on Thursday against fifth seed Elina Svitolina from Ukraine, the highest remaining seed in the draw whom she owns a 4-1 career head-to-head advantage against, Williams hit 25 winners and committed just 10 unforced errors while Wang finished with zero winners and hit 13 unforced errors.
Just two days after the 27-year-old Wang took out second seed and French Open champion Ashleigh Barty of Australia in the fourth round, Wang had no answers for Williams. Serena won 90 percent (19 of 21) of her first-serve points and backed it with a 64 percent (9 of 14) efficiency on her second serve. She faced no break points and broke Wang five times in five tries, allowing her opponent to win just eight points on serve. Williams outpointed Wang 50-15.
“I wasn’t ready to give up,” said Williams, who rolled her right ankle during her fourth-round win over Petra Martic of Croatia on Sunday. “I knew I had to come out and play really well.
“Physically, I’m feeling great. I’m having fun every time I come out here.”
Williams raced to a 5-0 lead in the opening set just 16 minutes into the match, hitting winner after winner, while pushing Wang all over the court. The Tianjin native managed to win on her serve in the next game – her only hold of the match – after Williams held a 0-30 lead. Then, the six-time US Open champion finished with a forehand winner, one of 12 she hit during the 23-minute first set.
The second set mirrored the first and was punctuated by a number of short rallies. Williams won the first seven points – and broke Wang at love in the opening game with four straight winners – before she lost a single point. Soon, a forehand winner by Williams pushed her ahead 5-0, and she put away the match with – what else – another forehand winner on her first match-point opportunity.
While Williams’ victory over Wang was her most lopsided win since 2015, when she defeated fellow American Madison Brengle, 6-0, 6-1 in Madrid, it was not her most-lopsided rout at the US Open. Six years ago, Williams beat Carla Suárez Navarro of Spain, 6-0, 6-0, in the quarterfinals.
Azarenka-Barty upset No. 1 seeds
No. 8 seeds Victoria Azarenka of Belarus and Ashleigh Barty from Australia came from behind to beat top seeds and Roland Garros champions, Timea Babos from Hungary and Kristina Mladenovic of France, 2-6, 7-5, 6-1, to reach the US Open semifinals.
The Internazionali BNL d’Italia champions rallied from a set and 4-2 down to win 11 of the final 13 games of the one hour and 48 minute match played on Louis Armstrong Stadium Tuesday afternoon.
“Doubles is so appreciated here, especially with the fans, who get to watch it live, and it’s a lot of fun,” said Azarenka, who lost in the first round in singles to countrywoman Aryna Sabalenka. “It’s a little different to watch it on TV, but being in the stadium, you can see the players light up a little more. It’s really exciting.”
Last year, Barty won the US Open doubles title teamed with American CoCo Vandeweghe.
By the numbers
• Serena Williams’ 44-minute victory over Wang Qiang tied Simona Halep‘s third-round victory over Viktoria Kuzmova in Madrid for the shortest WTA match of 2019. More Serena: Her 100th US Open victory came 30 years to the day when Hall of Famer Chrissie Evert, now an ESPN tennis analyst, won her tournament record 101st win.
• Since reuniting last year, Timea Babos and Kristina Mladenovic have reached the quarterfinals or better of all eight Grand Slam tournaments they’ve played, winning two.
What they’re saying
Victoria Azarenka, who like Ashleigh Barty, is competing in both singles and doubles at the US Open: “We both know from the beginning of the tournament that we’re playing both events. Singles will always be our priorities, but once that’s out, we’re very serious about doubles, and so, I don’t think there’s much adjustment. We want to play both events as well as we possibly can.”
Wednesday women’s schedule
Singles quarterfinals / Arthur Ashe Stadium
No. 13 Belinda Bencic vs. No. 23 Donna Vekic, noon.
No. 15 Bianca Andreescu vs. No. 25 Elise Mertens, 7 p.m.