By Ros Satar

  • Anastasija Sevastova [19] def. Sloane Stephens [3] 6-2 6-3
  • Serena Williams [17] def. Karolina Pliskova [8] 6-4 6-3
NEW YORK, USA – A tale of two champions unfolded in the quarter-finals as defending champion Sloane Stephens bowed out of the US Open, while Serena Williams locked her sites on another Slam semi-final this year.

 

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Anastasija Sevastova [19] def. Sloane Stephens [3] 6-2 6-3

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The US Open had been a bug-bear for the highly strung, but also highly entertaining Anastasija Sevastova to bear. In her first encounter last year at the same stage, she not only lost to Sloane Stephens on her way to the final, but was up a break in the final set.

Looking for all the world like she was going to burst in the frustrated tears even when she was winning, Sevastova was coping far better with the oppressive humidity that Stephens, and after fending off four break points from the defending champion, she broke straight away, batting away another three break points in the next game. A confident break to love sealed the first set, and set Stephens a mountain to climb.

The American was rattled, and it showed, as she was broken again at the start of the second set. This time she was able to break back, but to no avail, as Sevastova broke again to regain her lead. They would exchange another pair of breaks before Sevastova closed out the win on her third match point.

Sevastova advances to a Slam semi-final for the first time in her career, having reached three consecutive quarter-finals at the US Open, and becomes the first Latvian woman to reach the semi-finals in New York.

After her match, she said: “I didn’t learn anything [from last year’s defeat]. It was tough playing. Tough loss last year. But every loss you learn something, and I was okay if we would play three sets.

“I was also thinking about that match at 4-1 in the second set, but it happened. I was still proud of this match. I think it was a great match last year, and now look what happened now?”

Stephens has impressed this year – she proved she was not a one-trick pony by reaching the Roland Garros final, and having one hand on the trophy before Simona Halep’s amazing fight back.

She assessed her tournament, in her post match press conference: “When you don’t play big points well, the match can get away from you. I think that’s what happened today. I didn’t convert. I didn’t play the big points well, and you don’t win matches when you don’t take your opportunities.

“I think today I just really couldn’t get anything to connect. Even when I did have my break opportunities, I just wasn’t playing the points well at all. Mentally, physically, I just wasn’t connecting. It just was a really tough day. The heat doesn’t make it any more fun.

“She’s a great player. Obviously she plays a little bit different than most girls. She hits a lot of drop-shots, she slices, she changes it up a little bit. It’s always a difficult match, but I thought she played solid today. Obviously the better player won. It just was a bad day.”

 

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Serena Williams [17] def. Karolina Pliskova [8] 6-4 6-3

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This time last year, Serena Williams was battling through a very different challenge as she gave birth to her first child, Alexis Olympia. A year on and she is locked in to 12th US Open semi-final after she coasted past 2016 finalist Karolina Pliskova.

It was a very different story from their last encounter in New York, as Pliskova upset the six-time champion on the way to so far her only Slam final. This time around, Williams grabbed the match by the scruff of the neck, coming back from a break down in the first set to level things up, winning eight games on the bounce to build up a 4-0 lead in the second set.

Having been spraying errors left and right to give Pliskova an early lead, Williams sharpened up to close the big-serving Czech down.

Sevastova and Williams will play their semi-final on Thursday.

 

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