Serena Williams flattens Elina Svitolina, will have a shot at record-tying 24th major
Six-time U.S. Open champ Serena Williams continued her quest Thursday night to not only make U.S. Open history, but tennis history.
Williams, appearing in her 10th straight U.S Open semifinal, was not only making a bid to tie Chris Evert for the most U.S. Open wins ever on the women’s side with 101, she was trying to become the oldest woman to ever reach a Grand Slam final in the Open era on the cusp of her 38th birthday.
She reached those milestones under the lights of Arthur Ashe Stadium on Thursday, imposing her will on No. 5 Elina Svitolina in a 6-3, 6-1 win.
“It’s pretty cool,” Williams said of winning her 101st. “I didn’t even know it was an option.”
Next up: Margaret Court’s record of 24 Grand Slams, which she’ll have a chance to tie in Saturday’s final against Bianca Andreescu. The 19-year-old Canadian won Thursday’s other semifinal 7-6, 7-5 over Belinda Bencic.
Serena started off a bit sluggish, as her serve wasn’t clicking and she was laboring to move around the court in the early moments. The first two games were slow, taking 16 minutes total, and Williams was forced to fight off a break point in her first service game.
But Svitolina also looked shaky on serve and Serena pounced, hitting a big backhand return ace on Svitolina's second serve to get back to deuce, and then ripping another big backhand a few points later to get the break point opportunity she needed. She did not squander the chance to go up 2-0 in the set.
After a pair of easy holds from both players, Serena found herself facing triple break point on serve at 3-1. Williams, however reached deep into her arsenal and went to work, using a trio of big serves to overwhelm Svitolina and hold serve.
At 15-40 Williams served and volleyed to get an easy point. At 30-40 she fired a 114 mph serve at Svitolina and then crushed a forehand down the line to get to deuce. At deuce, Williams hit a 119ph first serve to get Svitolina on the back foot and forcing the Ukranian to send a ball long.
But after three big serves, Williams won the game with a couple of big forehands following a 68 mph second serve.
Williams got into a rhythm from there and was happy to trade service games with Svitolina en route to winning the first set 6-3.
“I think today was solid. It definitely wasn’t my best tennis,” Williams said of her performance. “I definitely know I could have played better.”
Svitolina, who was playing well behind the baseline on Williams’ serve, seemed to be struggling with her return game even when Serena wasn’t popping 115 mph serves.
Despite this, had Svitolina not blown a 40-0 lead during her first service games, and gotten a couple of points to go her way on Serena’s serve, she very well could have been the one up 4-1 in the set.
“I think I didn’t start so bad,” Svitolina said. “It was quite a good start for me, I would say. And first two games I had the chances to break, and then to hold. But in the same time she played really, really focused and very precise on those two games. After, she served in the third game unbelievable.”
But that point was irrelevant minutes into the second set, and after the match, Svitolina wished she “could take those opportunities” that she had in the first, believing that Williams wasn’t in top form Thursday night.
“I don’t think she played amazing today, but she played at a very high level at the beginning where you had to make a difference,” Svitolina said.
Serena started the second the same way she ended the first, hitting big forehands to break Svitolina and overpowering the Ukranian on serve to take a 2-1 lead.
After she was broken a second time to go down 4-1, Svitolina was out of ideas. Williams was moving her around the court on her own serve, and when Svitolina tried to bait Williams — who was moving exponentially better at this point — to net, Williams called her bluff and put away a cross-court drop shot at the net.
With the finish line was in sight, Williams looked like a player locked in on reaching her 10th U.S. Open final and 33rd Grand Slam final. She blew Svitolina off the court with another easy hold.
Svitolina could only toss her racket in the air and cast a gaze of resignation after losing a long rally at 5-1 to face match point on her serve. Serena finished the job on the next point and started looking forward to Saturday.
Reflecting on her path to the final, Williams said that having more time to train for this tournament, compared to her last two majors, is a big reason why she was able to reach her first final since the Australian Open in January.
“Wimbledon, I probably had a week to prepare, so that was amazing,” Williams admitted. “Australia I was super prepared. I did great, then rolled my ankle. I shouldn’t have even played the French Open. That was just a bonus to compete in another Grand Slam.”
Williams will head into the final against Bianca Andreescu, who both made her first Grand Slam semifinal appearance on Thursday night. Williams will have with an overwhelming advantage — she’s won six U.S. Open titles in nine tries. In all four Grand Slams, she has reached the final 32 times, winning 23 of those.
Williams won her first U.S. Open in 1999 at age 17, and she said that if someone told her she’d be in a Grand Slam final at 37 years old, she would have never believed it.