Flushing Meadows, New York, Sep 9 (efe-epa).- Serena Williams took another big step in her quest for a record-tying 24th Grand Slam women’s singles title, rallying from a set down to defeat Bulgaria’s Tsvetana Pironkova 4-6, 6-3, 6-2 here Wednesday afternoon and advance to the US Open semifinals for the 14th time in her storied career.
That match was followed by an all-Russian duel pitting 10th-seeded Andrey Rublev against third-seeded Daniil Medvedev, who won 7-6 (8-6), 6-3, 7-6 (7-5) to reach the tournament’s final four without dropping a set.
The 32-year-old Pironkova, who enjoyed remarkable success this fortnight in what was her first tournament in more than three years, jumped out to a fast start on Arthur Ashe Stadium by breaking Serena’s serve in the fifth game with some well-placed ground strokes.
The Bulgarian, who was one of three mothers in the quarterfinals along with 38-year-old Serena and Victoria Azarenka, then finished out the set five games later by holding serve for the fifth straight time.
The American great only won five points on return the entire first set and did not create a single break point.
Things got even more worrying for Serena when she dropped serve in the opening game of the first set due to three unforced errors, including a forehand wide of the sideline on break point.
But she got better and better as the match wore on, dominating the final two sets with her potent first serve and backhand and nearly eliminating her unforced errors.
Williams started striking the ball with more ferocity and immediately got the break back, although Pironkova managed to stay close a while longer in the second set thanks in part to the American’s unforced errors.
The 23-time Grand Slam champion, however, earned a crucial service break with Pironkova serving at 3-4, winning one point that game after getting fooled and hitting a left-handed return of serve and taking a 5-3 lead when the Bulgarian netted a drop shot.
Williams then clinched the set with two clutch aces on the final two points, her 15th and 16th of the match.
The decider ended up being more lopsided, as the American played perhaps her cleanest set of the tournament.
She broke Pironkova’s serve in the opening game and once again in the seventh game, did not face a single break point and struck 18 winners and committed just four unforced errors.
Many of those winners came on the backhand side, which was superior to her forehand on the day.
“A match like today, I just feel like (Pironkova) was serving well, she was hitting winners everywhere,” Williams was quoted as saying afterward on the WTA’s website. “Maybe I wasn’t being aggressive enough. So I think it’s more or less me adjusting my game in the second set and coming back and just trying to do better.”
Next up in Thursday’s semifinals for Williams, who is trying to equal Australian great Margaret Court’s mark of 24 Grand Slam women’s singles titles, will be the winner of Wednesday’s night match pitting Azarenka against 16th-seeded Belgian Elise Mertens.
In the ensuing men’s quarterfinal contest on Arthur Ashe Stadium, the 22-year-old Rublev appeared to have the first set in his pocket when he grabbed a 5-1 lead and then a 6-3 advantage in the tiebreaker. But one forehand error on his third set point and another at 6-6 provided an opening for Medvedev, who clinched the set with an ace up the T.
The 2019 US Open runner-up then secured the first service break in the match in the sixth game of the second set and clinched that set three games later when a Rublev return of serve went wide.
The third set proved to be similar to the first, with both players rolling through their service games until the tiebreaker.
After several mini-breaks, Medvedev converted his first match point – and let out a loud scream – when an inside-out forehand forced Rublev into a backhand error.
“It was tough at the end,” Medvedev was quoted as saying on the ATP Tour’s website. “Maybe the first time in almost a year I celebrated my win because it was very tough at the end. I felt like I could get in trouble, so I was really happy to get the win in the (final) tie-break.”