Eight of the top nine women’s seeds fell before the quarter-finals of the US Open, but the world No 1 and overwhelming favourite for the title remains on course to make a successful defence of her crown. Serena Williams reached the semi-finals in emphatic fashion, crushing Flavia Pennetta 6-3, 6-2 in just 63 minutes to claim her 19th consecutive victory at the tournament.
Williams has not dropped a set in her first five matches here and has lost just 22 games in total, though she needed to make a rapid recovery following a slow start. Looking sluggish and out of sorts, the 32-year-old American lost her first two service games and was 3-0 down after only eight minutes as Pennetta found her stride immediately.
Pennetta raised Italian hopes that she might get the better of the world No 1 for the first time in their six meetings, but order was quickly restored. Williams soon started hitting the ball more cleanly and won six games in a row to take the first set. Pennetta again started well in the second set, but from 2-1 down Williams won five games in succession to take the match. For all Pennetta’s graceful athleticism, Williams’ sheer power proved decisive.
“I don't feel like I was doing too much wrong,” Williams said of her slow start. “I just said to myself that if she keeps it up then she absolutely deserves the win. I just tried to do a little better. I had a lot of fun today. I really enjoyed it and I’m so happy to have won.”
Williams now plays Russia’s Ekaterina Makarova, who beat the American in the Australian Open two years ago. The other semi-final will see Caroline Wozniacki, the 2009 runner-up, take on Shuai Peng, who, like Makarova, will be playing at this stage of a Grand Slam tournament for the first time.
Although Williams has a big lead at the top of the world rankings, the American has had a disappointing year until now in the Grand Slam tournaments. She had not reached a quarter-final at a Grand Slam event until she arrived here.
“I've had a tough year in the majors and I've [lost to] some great players that weren't in the top 10,” Williams said. “You can never underestimate anyone. We're all fighting really hard and we all deserve to be here.”
Williams is attempting to win her 18th Grand Slam singles title, which would put her level with Chris Evert and Martina Navratilova on the all-time list. She would also become the first woman to win the title here three times in a row since Evert in the late 1970s.