Serena Williams ousted in U.S. Open semifinal by Victoria Azarenka

Serena Williams
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Serena Williams‘ latest bid for a record-tying 24th Grand Slam singles title was derailed by fellow mom Victoria Azarenka.

Azarenka prevailed 1-6, 6-3, 6-3, overcoming her rival from an era ago after Williams took a medical timeout early in the third set with a left Achilles injury. Williams played her most dominant tennis of the summer in the first set before Azarenka flipped the script in the second and kept pushing through the finish.

“I started really strong. Then she just kept fighting,” Williams said. “She just changed and started playing better and better. Maybe I took a little too much off the gas pedal at some point.”

Williams suffered the injury while serving and down 1-0 in the third set. She limped, went to her chair and had her always heavily wrapped foot and ankle worked on and rewrapped.

“It just overstretched. It was pretty intense,” she said. “It didn’t affect my play ultimately at all, just for that one point.”

Azarenka, who had already fought back from love-40 to 40-all in the game, won three of the next four points to break Williams.

From there, the Belarusian held serve four straight times to reach her first Grand Slam final in seven years and since having son Leo in December 2016. She improved to 1-10 against Williams in majors and reversed the 2012 U.S. Open final, when she served for the match in the third set and lost.

“My ego was way too big,” eight years ago, Azarenka said. “Now it’s a little smaller, and the results [are] coming.”

US OPEN DRAWS: Men | Women

Azarenka, the 2012 and 2013 Australian Open champion, plays 2018 U.S. Open champion Naomi Osaka in Saturday’s final. Earlier Thursday night, Osaka took out surging American Jennifer Brady 7-6 (1), 3-6, 6-3 in a battle between the two most impressive players of the tournament.

Azarenka, who was due to play Osaka in an event final two weeks ago before Osaka withdrew with a left hamstring injury, looks to become the fourth mom to win a Grand Slam singles title in the Open Era.

Williams hoped to join that club since returning from September 2017 childbirth and match Margaret Court‘s record for major singles titles. She lost finals at Wimbledon and the U.S. Open in 2018 and 2019. She turns 39 in two weeks.

Every Slam is crucial. Every deep run and close miss leads followers to wonder how it affects Williams’ resolve.

“I don’t know. I haven’t thought about that actually,” she said.

Her next chance will be the French Open that starts in two weeks. Williams, in not outright committing to the event on Monday, said that she had questions about health safety at the tournament that plans to allow up to 11,500 spectators per day.

Just after midnight on Friday, she provided an update.

“I’m definitely going to be going to Paris,” Williams said.

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2023 French Open women’s singles draw, scores

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At the French Open, Iga Swiatek of Poland eyes a third title at Roland Garros and a fourth Grand Slam singles crown overall.

The tournament airs live on NBC Sports, Peacock and Tennis Channel through championship points in Paris.

Swiatek, the No. 1 seed from Poland, can join Serena Williams and Justine Henin as the lone women to win three or more French Opens since 2000.

Having turned 22 on Wednesday, she can become the youngest woman to win three French Opens since Monica Seles in 1992 and the youngest woman to win four Slams overall since Williams in 2002.

FRENCH OPEN: Broadcast Schedule | Men’s Draw

But Swiatek is not as dominant as in 2022, when she went 16-0 in the spring clay season during an overall 37-match win streak.

She retired from her last pre-French Open match with a right thigh injury and said it wasn’t serious. Before that, she lost the final of another clay-court tournament to Australian Open champion Aryna Sabalenka of Belarus.

Sabalenka, the No. 2 seed, is her top remaining challenger in Paris.

No. 3 Jessica Pegula, the highest-seeded American man or woman, was eliminated in the third round. No. 4 Elena Rybakina of Kazakhstan, who has three wins over Swiatek this year, withdrew before her third-round match due to illness.

No. 6 Coco Gauff, runner-up to Swiatek last year, is the top hope to become the first American to win a Grand Slam singles title since Sofia Kenin at the 2020 Australian Open. The 11-major drought is the longest for U.S. women since Seles won the 1996 Australian Open.

MORE: All you need to know for 2023 French Open

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2023 French Open Women’s Singles Draw

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2023 French Open men’s singles draw, scores

French Open Men's Draw
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The French Open men’s singles draw is missing injured 14-time champion Rafael Nadal for the first time since 2004, leaving the Coupe des Mousquetaires ripe for the taking.

The tournament airs live on NBC Sports, Peacock and Tennis Channel through championship points in Paris.

Novak Djokovic is not only bidding for a third crown at Roland Garros, but also to lift a 23rd Grand Slam singles trophy to break his tie with Nadal for the most in men’s history.

FRENCH OPEN: Broadcast Schedule | Women’s Draw

But the No. 1 seed is Spaniard Carlos Alcaraz, who won last year’s U.S. Open to become, at 19, the youngest man to win a major since Nadal’s first French Open title in 2005.

Now Alcaraz looks to become the second-youngest man to win at Roland Garros since 1989, after Nadal of course.

Alcaraz missed the Australian Open in January due to a right leg injury, but since went 30-3 with four titles. Notably, he has not faced Djokovic this year. They could meet in the semifinals.

Russian Daniil Medvedev, the No. 2 seed, was upset in the first round by 172nd-ranked Brazilian qualifier Thiago Seyboth Wild. It marked the first time a men’s top-two seed lost in the first round of any major since 2003 Wimbledon (Ivo Karlovic d. Lleyton Hewitt).

All of the American men lost before the fourth round. The last U.S. man to make the French Open quarterfinals was Andre Agassi in 2003.

MORE: All you need to know for 2023 French Open

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2023 French Open Men’s Singles Draw

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