x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

One hand on trophy after win over Venus

Serena Williams produced what she described as her second best performance in 17 matches against her big sister Venus to storm into the semi-finals where she is now a hot favourite to win the title for the third time.

Serena Williams, right, embraces her sister Venus after defeating her in their US Open quarter-final match.
Serena Williams, right, embraces her sister Venus after defeating her in their US Open quarter-final match.

Serena Williams produced what she described as her second best performance in 17 matches against her big sister Venus to storm into the semi-finals where she is now a hot favourite to win the title for the third time. Her outstanding 7-6 7-6 victory carved out in over two hours of captivating tennis came after Serena had saved a total of 10 set points - two in the first set and eight in the second - to deny Venus a repeat of her triumph in the Wimbledon final two months ago. Only a brilliant 2003 Australian Open final win surpassed Serena's latest display in the sibling rivalry stakes as her native Americans were kept enthralled by the way she tenaciously refused to let Venus have her way.

Many thought when the draw was made two weeks ago that this was the unofficial women's singles final and it certainly lived up to that billing. Serena, who now meets the in-form Russian Dinara Safina for a place in tomorrow's final, hinted as much when she remarked afterwards: "I feel I should have the trophy now, but unfortunately I don't. "We played a great match today. It just boiled down to one point here and there. It could have gone either way. We were definitely playing the best [tennis of the women's tournament] so far.

Serena knew that Venus had let her off the hook on several occasions, the elder sister getting ahead in both sets before losing the tie-breaks by scores of 8-6 and 9-7. "I think she made a couple errors at vital times and it was really lucky for me because she never makes those errors. I can't say that I was disappointed. I obviously want the best for her, but in that situation you want to win, too."

It was the other way round in the Wimbledon final and Serena, deflated that day and annoyed by her failure to take key chances, learned from the mistakes she made at the All England Club. "I definitely managed my emotions a lot better here," she remarked. "The one thing I really wanted to focus on going into this match was staying positive. I felt like I got really negative at Wimbledon and lost any chance I might have had. So I thought when she was up, I just got relaxed. When I was up, I was still relaxed.

Serena will know that she cannot offer Safina, who has reached the final of the six of the last seven tournaments she has entered, as many chances in what may turn out to be a tough semi-final. The sixth-seeded Safina, who is yearning to emulate her elder brother Marat Safin who won the men's title here in 2000, continued in her impressive run of recent form as she overpowered her 16th-seeded opponent Flavia Pennetta, of Italy, 6-2 6-3 to reach her first Flushing Meadows semi-final in the same year as she appeared in her first Roland Garros final.

The other women's semi-final was between Jelena Jankovic, the second-seeded Serbian and Elena Dementieva, seeded five from Russia. wjohnson@thenational.ae