US 10- Game. Set. Serena.
Who does Serena Williams think she is, anyway? Jimmy Connors?
If there were any lingering doubts about how much Serena wants this title, they were put to rest in her 7-6(6), 7-6(7) quarterfinal win over her sister Venus on Night Ten.
Dinara, are you SURE you want to mess with THIS? / Timothy A. Clary/AFP/Getty Images
Running down shots, playing big points to perfection and coming from behind time after time, Serena resembled a heavyweight boxer who pours on a flurry of punches in the final minute of every round to steal a match from a top-ranked contender. Of course, that the "contender" on the other side of the net was also named Williams means that the entire affair took on several layers of importance and consequence that wouldn't be present with any other opponent.
It wouldn't be fair to say that Serena wanted this QF match MORE than Venus, but the feeling that the hungry, 2008 slam-less sister has fire in her eyes at the moment, while the Wimbledon-winning sister's season was already deemed a success in her eyes at the All-England Club and in Beijing was more than prevalent tonight.
Looking back, that SHOULD be the case.
In a sense, the Open is to Serena what Wimbledon is to Venus. She won her first slam title there at age 17 in 1999, and then joined her sister in those first-time ever primetime finals a few seasons later. New York, especially in the nighttime, brings out Serena's showwoman side, too. I mean, how can we ever forget the cat suit and boots? Or the denim? Or the sequined jacket that read "Serena?" Venus has more night session wins than any other woman, but Serena was made for the opening night-like thrill she causes when she walks onto the court for yet another evening under the stars.
Whatever it was that gave Serena the edge tonight can be debated, but there can be no argument that she surely had something on her side that Venus did not. The numbers don't lie, and they say that on ten different occasions in the match Venus held set points... but that she was 0-for-10 when it came to converting them.
In the 1st set, Venus served at 5-4, but was broken. She held two set points in the tie-break, but saw Serena storm to a victory by taking the last four points of the set to claim the breaker by an 8-6 score.
In the 2nd set, Venus led 5-2, and was up 40/love on serve at 5-3. All three set points were turned away there, as was another with Venus leading 6-5 in a five-deuce Serena service game. In the match's second tie-break, Venus held 4-1 and 5-2 advantages. Up 6-3, she sprayed set point #5, hit #6 wide, hit an overhead wide on #7, then saw a Serena volley save #8 on an attempt to pass by Venus. Two long Venus forehands gave Serena the tie-break at 9-7, as well as the match.
Many of the big points were decided by Venus errors, but they were errors brought about by Serena's great shotmaking and incredible ability to track down apparent winners. Whenever she needed to calm herself and get down to business in order to "steal" back an advantage, she did. Venus did not. The two will forever be tied together in history, and are never more linked than when they appear together on the same court, whether as opponents or doubles partners. That was the case again in this match, but it is surely one that Venus will very soon wish to forget.
Advancing to her first U.S. Open semifinal since the heart of the "Serena Slam" in 2002, Serena now finds herself two wins from wiping away that intense look of disappointment and drive she showed after losing to Venus in the Wimbledon final in July... not to mention re-claiming the #1 ranking for the first time in five years.
Her next opponent, Dinara Safina, has been the hottest player on tour this summer, but she's already complained of exhaustion once this tournament. Semifinalist Elena Dementieva is an Olympic Gold winner with a still-improving game, but she's still looking for that first elusive slam title, while her SF opponent Jelena Jankovic is, well, you know, a Whirling Dervish who could spin out of control just as easily as complete a career-defining two-week run over the next few days.
Serena's chances are looking pretty good. She might just be adding another big memory to her U.S. Open scrapbook by the end of the weekend.
=DAY 10 NOTES=
Try as they might, the Williams sisters couldn't stay on the court long enough to close the night session show and possibly push the scheduled Men's QF to tomorrow. Rafael Nadal and Mardy Fish began play at 11:30pm. After the American took the 1st set, Nadal slowly but surely grabbed control of the match and scaled Fish (sorry, couldn't resist) in an Ashe Stadium that was still quite full... even though the match didn't end until 2:10am.
If Venus and Serena had played that 3rd set, we would have seen the record set for the latest match ever at the Open. The latest-ever-match record currently stands somewhere around 2:30am.
...very much earlier in the day, Dinara Safina didn't seem to be hampered by the exhaustion she talked about the other day. She defeated Flavia Pennetta 6-2/6-3 to advance to her second slam SF this season.
...meanwhile, Andy Murray reached his first career slam SF with a four-set win over Juan Martin del Potro. Murray led two sets to none, then opened the door for the Argentine to get back into the match. He did, too, and very nearly pushed the contest to five sets. Murray's "reward" is a date with Nadal in the SF. Tomorrow night, Andy Roddick makes yet another appearance in the night session against Novak Djokovic, who'll surely be looked at with questioning eyes the first time he calls for a trainer, considering Tommy Robredo's overly harsh words (just beat your opponent and save the whining for your inner circle, T.R.) and Roddick's barely-veiled ones about the legitimacy of the Serb's complaints about various maladies.
...there was a limited junior schedule today, and the only really interesting result I see is probably that main draw wild card Coco Vandeweghe defeated main draw qualifier Kristie Haerim Ahn in the Girls 2nd Round.
...AWARD UPDATE: doubles partners Cara Black and Liezel Huber will face off in the Mixed Doubles final, with partners Leander Paes and Jamie Murray, respectively, in tow. Black & Huber are still alive in the Doubles SF, so the female member of the winning Mixed team will claim the "Doubles Star" award. Also, I was going to go ahead and award the "It Girl" honors to Dinara Safina, but I'm going to hold off with so many American girls having advanced to the Girls 3rd Round. I'm thinking a junior (or two) might take the "Breakout Junior" AND "It Girl" awards at this U.S.. Open. I guess I'm maybe holding out for BrengleFly to possibly take one of the two. Oh, and obviously, Serena claims the "Last American Standing" crown.
...and, finally, with no Women's Singles matches scheduled for Day 11, I'll wait until tomorrow to present the Mid-Round Awards. Plus, I need to get to bed, anyway. Before I go, I'd like to send out a big thanks to Starbucks Doubleshot Espresso & Cream... without you, I'd already be counting little Jelena's jumping over a fence by now.
*2008 WTA SF*
9...ELENA DEMENTIEVA (4-4)
8...JELENA JANKOVIC (1-5 + W)
7...DINARA SAFINA (6-0)
6...SERENA WILLIAMS (4-1)
6...Vera Zvonareva (4-2)
6...Alize Cornet (3-3)
*2008 WOMEN'S SLAM SF - BY NATION*
*2008 WTA SF - BY NATION*
*WOMEN'S SLAM SF - 2005-08*
9...Maria Sharapova (3-6)
8...Justine Henin (7-1)
5...Kim Clijsters (1-4)
5...JELENA JANKOVIC (0-4)
4...SERENA WILLIAMS (3-0)
4...Venus Williams (3-1)
4...Amelie Mauresmo (2-2)
3...ELENA DEMENTIEVA (0-2)
3...Svetlana Kuznetsova (2-1)
2...Lindsay Davenprt (2-0)
2...Mary Pierce (2-0)
2...DINARA SAFINA (1-0)
2...Nicole Vaidisova (0-2)
*CAREER SLAM SF - ACTIVE*
18...Lindsay Davenport (7-11)
17...Venus Williams (13-4)
14...SERENA WILLIAMS (11-2)
10...Maria Sharapova (4-6)
8...Amelie Mauresmo (3-5)
6...ELENA DEMENTIEVA (2-3)
5...JELENA JANKOVIC (0-4)
4...Ana Ivanovic (3-1)
4...Svetlana Kuznetsova (3-1)
2...DINARA SAFINA (1-0)
2...Nicole Vaidisova (0-2)
2...Nadia Petrova (0-2)
ALSO: Mary Pierce (6-0)
*RECENT US OPEN BOYS CHAMPIONS*
1998 David Nalbandian
1999 Jarkko Nieminen
2000 Andy Roddick
2001 Gilles Muller
2002 Richard Gasquet
2003 Jo-Wilfried Tsonga
2004 Andy Murray
2005 Ryan Sweeting
2006 Dusan Lojda
2007 Ricardas Berankis
*VENUS vs. SERENA*
[Serena leads 9-8; Serena 1 walkover win]
98 Aust.Open 2nd - Venus 7-6,6-1
98 Rome QF - Venus 6-4,6-2
99 Miami F - Venus 6-1,4-6,6-4
99 Grand Slam Cup F - Serena 6-1,3-6,6-4
00 Wimbledon SF - Venus 6-2,7-6
01 Ind.Wells SF - Serena walkover
01 US Open F - Venus 6-2,6-4
02 Miami SF - Serena 6-2,6-2
02 R.Garros F - Serena 7-5,6-3
02 Wimbledon F - Serena 7-6,6-3
02 US Open F - Serena 6-3,6-4
03 Aust.Open F - Serena 7-6,3-6,6-4
03 Wimbledon F - Serena 4-6,6-4,6-2
05 Miami QF - Venus 6-1,7-6
05 US Open 4th - Venus 7-6,6-2
08 Bangalore SF - Serena 6-3,3-6,7-6
08 Wimbledon F - Venus 7-5,6-4
08 US Open QF - Serena 7-6,7-6
*VENUS vs. SERENA - CONTD.*
Roland Garros...Serena 1-0
2nd Round...Venus 1-0
4th Round...Venus 1-0
*WOMEN'S SINGLES SF*
#6 Dinara Safina/RUS vs. #4 Serena Williams/USA
#5 Elena Dementieva/RUS vs. #2 Jelena Jankovic/SRB
*MEN'S SINGLES QF*
#1 Rafael Nadal/ESP def. Mardy Fish/USA
#6 Andy Murray/GBR def. #17 Juan Martin del Potro/ARG
#8 Andy Roddick/USA vs. #3 Novak Djokovic/SRB
(Q) Gilles Muller/LUX vs. #2 Roger Federer/SUI
*WOMEN'S DOUBLES SF*
#1 Black/Huber (ZIM/USA) vs. #5 Medina-Garrigues/Ruano-Pascual (ESP/ESP)
#4 Srebotnik/Sugiyama (SLO/JPN) vs. #10 Raymond/Stosur (USA/AUS)
*MEN'S DOUBLES FINAL*
#7 Dlouhy/Paes (CZE/IND) vs. #2 Bryan/Bryan (USA/USA)
*MIXED DOUBLES FINAL*
#5 Black/Paes (ZIM/IND) vs. Huber/J.Murray (USA/GBR)
TOP QUALIFIERS: Yaroslava Shvedova/KAZ & Barbora Zahlavova-Strycova/CZE
TOP EARLY ROUND (1r-2r): Venus Williams/USA
TOP MIDDLE-ROUND (3r-QF): Serena Williams/USA
TOP LATE ROUND (SF-F): xxx
TOP QUALIFYING MATCH: Q3: #15 Olaru/ROU def. #22 Larcher de Brito/POR 6-2/6-3
TOP EARLY RD. MATCH (1r-2r): 2nd Rd. - #2 Jankovic/SRB def. Arvidsson/SWE 6-3/6-7/7-5
TOP MIDDLE-RD. MATCH (3r-QF): xxx
TOP LATE RD. MATCH (SF-F): xxx
FIRST SEED OUT: #24 Shahar Peer/ISR (1st Rd.-Li Na)
UPSET QUEENS: Chinese
REVELATION LADIES: Slovaks
LAST QUALIFIER STANDING: Anna-Lena Groenefeld/GER (4th Rd.)
IT GIRL: xxx
MS. OPPORTUNITY: xxx
COMEBACK PLAYER: Anna-Lena Groenefeld/GER
CRASH & BURN: #1 Ana Ivanovic/SRB (lost 2nd Rd to #188 Coin)
ZOMBIE QUEEN: Jelena Jankovic/SRB (7:36 on court in first four matches)
LAST AMERICAN STANDING: Serena Williams/USA (to SF)
DOUBLES STAR xxx
JUNIOR BREAKOUT: xxx
All for Day 10. More tomorrow.