Karolina Pliskova

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Serena Williams rolls ankle, opponent as U.S. Open challengers upset

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NEW YORK — Serena Williams‘ chances of winning a seventh U.S. Open increased before she began playing Sunday, when No. 2 seed Ash Barty was upset.

Went up again during her fourth-round match, as No. 3 Karolina Pliskova was eliminated. Then climbed even more with a 6-3, 6-4 victory over No. 22 Petra Martic to reach the quarterfinals for the 11th straight time here. A nice birthday present for daughter Olympia, who turned 2 on Sunday.

“She was in my arms by now,” in 2017, Williams remembered in an on-court interview. “I think she was born around 11:30ish. It was, like, the best day of my life.”

Williams rebounded well from a brief scare at 2-all in the second set, when she twisted her right ankle, dropped to the court and took a medical timeout to have the already wrapped ankle looked at. Williams injured her left ankle at the Australian Open in January.

“I was volleying, and it just went over,” she said. “That was a little frustrating, but I wanted to get it compressed really fast. … It affected me a little mentally because I had a rough year with injuries. I was like, oh my god, not again.”

Williams, seeded eighth and seeking a record-tying 24th Grand Slam singles title, is one of two women left who have won a major. The other, whom Williams would not meet until the final, is top-ranked, defending champion Naomi Osaka.

A rematch of last year’s controversial final is looking more and more likely.

Especially after Osaka played her best match in months Saturday night, sweeping 15-year-old Coco Gauff 6-3, 6-0. Especially after Barty, the French Open winner, fell to No. 18 Wang Qiang 6-2, 6-4 on Sunday. And even more so after No. 16 Jo Konta rallied past Pliskova 6-7 (1), 6-3, 7-5.

Williams gets Wang in Tuesday’s quarters. The other top-15 seed left in her half of the draw is No. 5 Elina Svitolina, who took out No. 10 Madison Keys 7-5, 6-4 on Sunday night.

First she can see Olympia, who may have noticed Sunday’s result.

“Now that she’s getting a little bit older, she’s starting to understand,” Williams said. “She sees me on TV, and she says momma. Sometimes she sees [older sister] Venus, and she says momma. But that’s OK because Venus and I share everything.”

U.S. OPEN DRAWS: Men | Women

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No. 2 Karolina Pliskova upset at French Open

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No. 2 seed Karolina Pliskova was upset in the French Open third round, ensuring that Naomi Osaka will remain No. 1 after the tournament.

Pliskova, the 2016 U.S. Open runner-up, fell 6-3, 6-3 to Croatian Petra Martic at Roland Garros on Friday.

She’s the fourth player from the top six to exit in the first week, along with No. 5 Angelique Kerber, plus Nos. 4 and 6 Kiki Bertens and Petra Kvitova, who withdrew for health reasons.

The bottom half of the draw opens up with No. 7 Sloane Stephens the highest remaining seed and a guaranteed first-time French Open semifinalist to come from Pliskova’s quarter. The top half still boasts Osaka, Serena Williams and defending champion Simona Halep.

Pliskova was bidding to return to No. 1 after previously holding the top spot for eight weeks in the summer of 2017.

Martic, 28, has never made it past the fourth round of a major. Friday marked her first win over a top-four player.

Stephens, the 2018 French Open runner-up, outlasted Slovenian Polona Hercog 6-3, 5-7, 6-4 on Friday. She gets 2016 French Open champion Garbine Muguruza of Spain in the fourth round. Muguruza took out No. 9 Elina Svitolina of Ukraine 6-3, 6-3.

FRENCH OPEN: TV Schedule | Scores | Men’s Draw | Women’s Draw

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Serena Williams into U.S. Open semifinals, beats former No. 1

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NEW YORK  — Serena Williams began her U.S. Open quarterfinal tentatively. Her shots lacked their usual sting, her attitude its usual conviction.

She was facing the last player she lost to at Flushing Meadows, and perhaps that was the problem. After just 20 minutes Tuesday night, Williams was in danger of trailing by two service breaks. Not much later, the outcome was no longer in doubt, because the 23-time Grand Slam champion suddenly was in complete control.

Williams put aside some early shakiness and an early deficit, turning things around with an eight-game run en route to a 6-4, 6-3 victory over No. 8 seed Karolina Pliskova for a spot in the semifinals.

“I thought, ‘Oh, I’ve got to try harder,’” said Williams, who wound up with 22 of her 30 unforced errors in the first set.

Pliskova is a big server and hitter in her own right, someone who briefly spent time at No. 1 in the WTA rankings and was the runner-up at the U.S. Open in 2016, when she beat Williams in the semifinals. The 36-year-old American did not compete in New York a year ago, because she gave birth to her daughter during the tournament.

Go back to 2015, and that was another semifinal departure for Williams, whose bid for a calendar-year Grand Slam was shockingly ended by Roberta Vinci.

“Well, I want to just be able to get past the semis here. It’s been a few, couple, rough semis for me,” Williams said. “But regardless, this has been a great road.”

This time, Williams’ semifinal opponent will be No. 19 seed Anastasija Sevastova of Latvia, who surprisingly beat defending champion Sloane Stephens 6-2, 6-3 earlier Tuesday.

“Still long way to go, I think,” Sevastova said.

Especially considering that the next step will come against Williams, who’s heading into her 36th semi at a major, 12th at Flushing Meadows.

It did take Williams a little while to get going as she pursues a seventh U.S. Open title.

That sluggish start came in the heat and humidity that hampered John Isner in his quarterfinal loss to Juan Martin del Potro on Tuesday afternoon, and Roger Federer in his fourth-round exit against John Millman a night earlier.

With her older sister, Venus — the woman she beat in the third round — in her guest box, Williams looked tight. Her timing was off. She put a backhand into the net to get broken to 2-1 at the outset.

Then, down 3-1, she faced three break points; if Pliskova won any, she would have led 4-1. But Pliskova did not manage to put any of Williams’ serves in play on those key points.

Soon after that, Williams went from trailing 4-2 to not only taking the first set but also leading 4-0 in the second.

By the end, Williams compiled a 13-3 edge in aces, and 35-12 in total winners.

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U.S. OPEN: Scores | Men’s Draw | Women’s Draw