Serena Williams reaches U.S. Open final, again one win from record

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NEW YORK — For the fourth time, Serena Williams is one match win from a record-tying 24th Grand Slam singles title.

Williams overpowered No. 5 Elina Svitolina 6-3, 6-1 in the U.S. Open semifinals on Thursday night.

She’s into a final (Saturday) for the fourth time in her seven Grand Slams since returning from life-threatening childbirth.

The foe is Canadian 19-year-old Bianca Andreescu, who hasn’t lost a completed match in six months but withdrew from the French Open and Wimbledon with a shoulder injury. She swept Swiss Belinda Bencic 7-6 (3), 7-5 later Thursday.

“To be in yet another final, it seems honestly crazy,” Williams said. “But I don’t really expect too much less.”

Williams lost the previous three finals: 2018 Wimbledon to Angelique Kerber, 2018 U.S. Open to Naomi Osaka and 2019 Wimbledon to Simona Halep. This time feels different as she continues to chase Margaret Court‘s record.

“In this tournament, I guess, I have definitely turned a different zone,” Williams, who spans a record 20 years between her first and most recent Slam finals, said after her fourth-round sweep Sunday. “I’m not sure if I can articulate what zone that is.”

Since those comments, Williams had what her coach called her best performance as a mom, a 6-1, 6-0 rout of Chinese Wang Qiang in the quarterfinals.

Then she took out Svitolina, the highest seed of the quarterfinalists who hadn’t dropped a set in her first five matches. The Ukrainian squandered a chance for a hot start, going 0 for 6 on break points in the first set.

“It definitely wasn’t my best tennis,” said Williams, who had 34 winners to 20 unforced errors.

Williams is favored against Andreescu, looking to become the fourth mom to win a major singles title.

In their only head-to-head, Andreescu led Williams 3-1 in the final of their last event before the U.S. Open, when Williams retired with back spasms, part of a string of injuries since having daughter Olympia two years ago.

Williams’ coach, Patrick Mouratoglou, pointed to her recently improved fitness and health as a key to finally winning her first title as a mom come Saturday.

“I know she’s played a lot in her life, but still, there is a special emotion in a final, especially when you’re supposed to win, and when you are called Serena you are supposed to win all the time,” he said Sunday. “It’s not the same as for another player playing a final, an unexpected player in the final..

“The pressure is very important, even more when you play to beat the record of all times.”

The U.S. Open continues Friday with the men’s semifinals — Rafael Nadal, seeking a 19th Slam title to move within one of Roger Federer, takes on Italian 24th seed Matteo Berrettini. The other semi pits No. 5 Daniil Medvedev of Russia against former world No. 3 but now 78th-ranked Grigor Dimitrov.

U.S. OPEN DRAWS: Men | Women

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