US Open: Serena reaches semi-finals, defending champion Stephens ousted

Serena Williams rolls into US Open semifinals

Serena Williams powers into the US Open semi-finals

Defending champion Sloane Stephens lost her quarterfinal match, 6-2, 6-3, in the brutal afternoon heat to No. 19 seed Anastasija Sevastova, the same Latvian woman she beat in three sets in the quarterfinal previous year en route to her first Grand Slam title.

Surely no one forgets their 2016 semifinal match here in NY, when Pliskova defeated Williams in straight sets and ended her quest to win a 23rd major and pass Steffi Graf for the most in the Open era.

The home favourite claimed eight games in a row to recover from an early break of serve in the opening set and secure a 6-4, 6-3 victory over No 8 seed Karolina Pliskova.

With a win she would break out of a tie with Chris Evert for most US Open titles, and equal Margaret Court's all-time record for Grand Slams.

The confident Williams got some measure of revenge for her 2016 semifinal loss against the Czech as she continues to climb her way back to the top after the birth of her first child a year ago. She's answers matter-of-factly when asked about contending with the heat and humidity.

Serena Williams shows her emotions during the women's singles quarter-final match against Karolina Pliskova.

"I saw that she was struggling".

She was facing the last player to beat her at Flushing Meadows.

"I hope I will enjoy it, playing semi-finals". "I know she can be off". "I was thinking, 'I can play better.' So that was the good news". That proved to be true at Wimbledon.

Pliskova, who managed to convert just two of 12 break point chances in the contest, said Williams was simply too good in the important moments.

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. The last time Williams played in the US Open and didn't reach at least the semifinals was in 2007. I just assumed you practiced, worked hard, but I didn't know it meant photo shoots and traveling all the time and all the appearances.

Her last-16 match against Kanepi was the only time any of Williams' matches thus far have gone beyond two sets.

After taking a 4-1 lead in the second set, Sevastova admitted that memories of last year's quarter-final against Stephens flashed across her mind.

Then, after her third ace of the final game sailed past Pliskova and bounced toward the stands, Williams threw both arms into the air and spun an enthusiastic 360 nearly involuntarily, as if the movement were part of the follow-through on her serve.

"I had couple break points", Pliskova recalled after the match.

Indeed Stephens fought back to narrow the gap to 4-3, but Sevastova grabbed another break with a well-timed drop shot for a 5-3 lead and sealed the victory on her third match point when a tired Sephens put a backhand into the net.

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