Elina Svitolina

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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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Venus Williams has earliest U.S. Open exit in six years

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NEW YORK — Venus Williams in 2019 Grand Slams: three match wins, four match losses. She hasn’t reached the second week of a major since her resurgent 2017, and, at age 39, has fallen outside the top 50 for the first year since 2013.

Williams lost to fifth seed Elina Svitolina of Ukraine 6-4, 6-4 in the U.S. Open second round on Wednesday, two days after dropping just one game in round one. It’s her earliest exit from the tournament since 2013.

Also Wednesday, Roger Federer dropped the opening set of his first two matches at a Slam for the first time. He rallied again, beating Bosnian Damir Džumhur 3-6, 6-2, 6-3, 6-4 to reach the third round. Later, Novak Djokovic swept into round three, while Serena Williams rallied past 17-year-old American Caty McNally 5-7, 6-3, 6-1.

Play on courts without roofs — all but Arthur Ashe and Louis Armstrong Stadiums — was cancelled due to rain.

U.S. OPEN DRAWS: Men | Women

Venus Williams, a seven-time major singles champion, played strong at times this season, reaching the quarterfinals at Indian Wells in March and in Cincinnati two weeks ago. She beat top-10 players Petra Kvitova and Kiki Bertens.

She gritted her teeth and challenged Svitolina in the second set, after coffee was delivered to her chair following the opening frame. That included saving five match points in her final service game that lasted 17 minutes.

“I did a lot of things right today,” said Williams, who was up 3-0 in the second set. “A lot of great things to build on.”

A slide wasn’t surprising after that incredible 2017, when she made two Grand Slam finals and re-entered the top five for the first time since she was diagnosed with energy-sapping Sjögren’s syndrome in 2011.

This year, Williams was stopped in the Australian Open third round by No. 1 Simona Halep. Swept by Svitolina in a tough French Open first round draw (so it goes when you’re not ranked high enough for a seed). Booted by 15-year-old Coco Gauff on the opening day of Wimbledon, where she won five titles between 2000 and 2008.

Williams customarily bats away questions about her future, but has said she will play in 2020.

“As Billie Jean King says, I love this game,” Williams said in a rare public moment of exclamation on court after Monday’s opening rout. “I love, love, love my job. I get to work outside. My whole job is to stay fit and get a six-pack. You don’t get better than that. I love what I do. I’ll be doing it as long as I can, and when I can’t, I’ll be watching with y’all.”

A potential sixth Olympics is a goal. It would take an incredible turnaround to qualify for the four-woman U.S. team in singles. More on the intense U.S. battle for Olympic spots here.

“It’s something that is the peak of your life, of your career,” Williams said of the Olympics in 2016.

Williams, the most decorated Olympic tennis player with five medals, could be chosen via discretionary pick for Olympic doubles. She has the credentials: Olympic golds with her sister in 2000, 2008 and 2012 and a mixed doubles silver in 2016.

If she goes to Tokyo, Williams will do it at age 40, older than any previous, modern-era Olympic tennis medalist.

“I’m trying to stick around for that,” she reportedly said in 2017 of the Games.

MORE: Serena Williams gives terse response when asked about 2018 chair umpire

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Venus Williams exits on French Open opening day

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PARIS (AP) — Venus Williams’ 22nd appearance at the French Open did not last long.

The 2002 runner-up lost her opening match at Roland Garros for the second year in a row, beaten 6-3, 6-3 by ninth-seeded Elina Svitolina in 1 hour, 13 minutes.

The 38-year-old Williams lost in the first round for the fourth time in the last seven years at the clay-court Grand Slam tournament.

Wiliams was broken in seven of her nine service games.

She wasn’t the only major winner to make an early exit. Angelique Kerber won’t complete a career Grand Slam this year.

Still hampered by a right ankle injury, the three-time major winner lost 6-4, 6-2 to an 18-year-old Roland Garros beginner, Russian Anastasia Potapova, on Court Philippe Chatrier.

No. 5 seed Kerber’s preparations for Roland Garros, where she never advanced past the quarterfinals, were hampered by the injury she suffered at the Madrid Open last month.

“Of course this is not my excuse and everything,” Kerber said. “I tried my best. I know that there is still a little bit of work to do to be really playing matches 100 percent.”

The 81st-ranked Potapova sealed the opening set with a cross-court backhand winner and broke twice at the start of the second. Kerber saved two match points before shanking a forehand wide sealing her fate.

“The clay season is over now for me. Yeah, I’m happy about that, that I can now look forward to playing on grass,” added Kerber, who won the Australian Open and US Open in 2016 and Wimbledon in 2018.

Playing his first match at Roland Garros since 2015, Roger Federer had no problem reaching the second round.

Back on the refurbished Chatrier, the 20-time Grand Slam champion defeated French Open debutant Lorenzo Sonego 6-2, 6-4, 6-4.

Federer missed the French Open in 2016 because of a back injury and then skipped the event to focus on Wimbledon. He won the title in Paris 10 years ago to complete a career Grand Slam.

“I missed you, thanks very much for the welcome,” Federer said to the crowd after concluding his match. “I was quite tense at the start.”

Among other seeded players in action, 2016 champion and 19th-seeded Garbine Muguruza advanced to the second round with a 5-7, 6-2, 6-2 win over American Taylor Townsend at the tournament’s newest stadium, Court Simonne Mathieu. No. 11-seeded Marin Cilic of Croatia defeated Thomas Fabbiano of Italy 6-3, 7-5, 6-1.

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

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