Flushing, NY—It wasn’t pretty but Serena Williams, who turns 39 this month came back from three sets to beat Tsvetana Pironkova in the quarterfinal on Wednesday.
Two more victories would allow Williams to claim a record-tying 24th Grand Slam singles title and would be her seventh US Open championship.
Williams has made it to the semifinals in each of her past 11 appearances in Flushing, Meadows.
Williams needed both of these points during a five-game, match with runs, one of which included a awkward shot she hit left handed– along with 20 aces, her most in a match in eight years – to gut out a 4-6, 6-3, 6-2 score after more than two hours to advance to the semifinals at Arthur Ashe Stadium.
“I tried everything,” Pironkova said.
But after compiling only five unforced errors in the first set, Pironkova had 21 over the last two sets.
Serena Williams will play Victoria Azarenka in one of the women’s semifinal matches — a rematch of the 2012 and 2013 U.S Open finals won by Williams –. Azarenka is a two-time Australian Open champion on a 10-match winning streak and back in a Grand Slam semifinal for the first time in some years.
“It’s not how you start, it’s how you finish, right?” Williams said.
Williams last lost before the semifinals in New York in 2007, when Justine Henin eliminated her in the quarterfinals.
“In the beginning, I was a little fatigued, for whatever reason,” Williams said. “Obviously, I can’t do that if I want to keep winning, so I need to figure that out.”
It would of been a huge upset for Pironkova if she could of had held on. Not only is she not seeded at the US Open, she doesn’t even appear in the WTA rankings at all – this was her first tournament of any type in more than three years, because she left the tour to become a mother.
“You play a match and you go home and you’re still changing diapers,” said Williams, whose daughter turned three on Sept. 1 and is a little older than Pironkova’s son. “It’s like a double life. It’s really surreal.”
On Thursday, Williams will face Victoria Azarenka, who returned to the U.S. Open semifinals for the first time since 2013 by dominating Elise Mertens 6-1, 6-0 on Wednesday night. Williams leads her head-to-head series against Azarenka 18-4, including beating her in the 2012 and 2013 finals in New York.
The other women’s semifinal Thursday will be 2018 champion Naomi Osaka vs. No. 28 seed Jennifer Brady.