Serena Williams eyeing sixth US Open title

Last Updated: Friday, September 5, 2014 - 00:27
Serena Williams eyeing sixth US Open title

New York: All joking aside, if this keeps up Serena Williams won`t need a back-up plan.

The 17-time Grand Slam champion, shut out in the majors this year, continues her quest for a third straight US Open title on Friday when she takes on 17th-seeded Russian Ekaterina Makarova for a place in the championship match.

On paper it`s a mismatch: the two-time defending champion seeking a sixth US Open title against the left-hander from Moscow playing in her first Grand Slam semi-final.

But Williams hadn`t made it past the fourth round in the first three Grand Slams of the year, a gaping hole in her resume despite five titles on the WTA tour.

"It`s almost a joke for me because I have done little to no winning in the majors," she said. "I thought, take it as a joke: I better play doubles just in case I don`t make it past the second round. At least I have a back-up plan.

"I think that definitely has been able to help me to relax."

A relaxed and ever-more confident Williams is the only top-eight seed still standing in a women`s draw rocked by upsets.

In Friday`s other semi-final, 10th-seeded Caroline Wozniacki, a former world number one and the 2009 runner-up, takes on China`s Peng Shuai, who has finally made it past the fourth round of a Grand Slam in her 37th attempt.

Williams arrives in the last four off a storming quarter-final win over tough Italian veteran Flavia Pennetta.

She erased a quick 0-3 deficit by winning six straight games as she stretched her record against the Italian to 6-0 with a 6-3, 6-2 triumph.

But she has a healthy respect for Makarova, who beat her in the fourth round at the 2012 Australian Open.

"Makarova moves well," Williams said. "She doesn`t care who she plays, she gives 100 percent.

"She has that serve that can go out wide or you never know where it`s going to go. She has a great backhand and she`s improved her forehand."

Makarova said the key to capitalizing on those attributes would be to stay aggressive.

"Because she`s so aggressive, yes? And I need to be a little bit more aggressive than she is, let her move, definitely."

Makarova`s run to the semis included a fourth-round upset of seventh-seeded poster girl Eugenie Bouchard.

In the other half of he draw, Wozniacki sent French Open champion Maria Sharapova packing in the fourth round while Peng ousted fourth-seeded Agnieszka Radwanska.Wozniacki will be playing in her first Grand Slam semi-final in three years.

The knock on the Dane when she was atop the rankings back in 2010 and 2011 was that she hadn`t won a Grand Slam title.

She came closest with a runner-up finish at the US Open in 2009, when she was 19.

She also reached the semi-finals in 2011, but she fell out of the top 10 in the world rankings this year amid a spate of indifferent results.

That included a first-round exit at the French Open, shortly after a very public breakup with golf star fiance Rory McIlroy.

Since then, a re-focused Wozniacki has won her first title of the year, and 22nd of her career, at Istanbul in July.

"I feel confident and I feel comfortable out there," Wozniacki said. "I have been playing well in these last few months. It`s just nice that it`s paying off here.

"I`m just happy I`m on my way up again."

Wozniacki has beaten the 39th-ranked Peng in five of six career meetings, Peng`s only victory in the series coming back in 2007.

The Chinese veteran -- better known for her doubles prowess, reached a career-high 14th in the rankings in 2011, but the erratic progress of her singles career had her contemplating giving up the sport in 2006.

But she hung on -- just as she had as a 12-year-old when the discovery of a heart defect almost stopped her career before it began.

Despite her dominance of Peng, Wozniacki said she was expecting a challenge from the 28-year-old, who joined two-time Grand Slam champion Li Na and Zheng Jie as the only Chinese players to reach a major semi-final.

"She`s playing aggressively," Wozniacki said. "She she`s strong from both sides. She`s been serving well. It`s going to be a difficult match."

AFP

First Published: Thursday, September 4, 2014 - 12:27

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