x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 21 January 2018

Serena Williams sets up semi-final date with Li Na at US Open tennis

Top-ranked defending champion needs only 52 minutes to beat birthday girl Carla Suarez Navarro 6-0, 6-0 to reach the last four.

Serena Williams is anticipating a tough semi-final match against Li Na. Matthew Stockman / Getty Images / AFP
Serena Williams is anticipating a tough semi-final match against Li Na. Matthew Stockman / Getty Images / AFP

NEW YORK // Serena Williams, the top-ranked defending champion, inflicted the most lopsided US Open women's quarter-final defeat in 24 years on birthday-girl Carla Suarez Navarro to reach a semi-final against China's Li Na.

Williams routed the 18th-seeded Spaniard 6-0, 6-0 in just 52 minutes on Tuesday, Suarez Navarro's 25th birthday, to reach a match-up on Friday with Li, the 2011 French Open champion who ousted Russian 24th seed Ekaterina Makarova.

Williams, the reigning French Open champion and a 16-time grand slam winner seeking her fifth US Open crown and ninth title of the year, has dropped only 13 games in five wins on her way to the semis for a fifth US Open appearance in a row.

Asked if this was her most dominant US Open performance, Williams said, "I guess so. I haven't thought about it yet. I'm still in the tournament and I'm not thinking about, like, 'I'm really dominant now.'

"I'm just thinking, 'OK, I just have a really tough match in the next round and I really want to do well."

Williams, who would be the oldest women's champion in US Open history at age 31, matched the worst rout in US Open women's quarter-final history, Martina Navratilova's 6-0, 6-0 blanking of Bulgarian Manuela Maleeva in 1989.

Suarez Navarro, who has never taken more than three games off Williams in three career meetings, was the first Spanish woman in a US Open quarter-final since Arantxa Sanchez-Vicario in 1998.

Williams hit 20 winners while Suarez Navarro managed only 18 points in the match, just three off winners on a windy night at Arthur Ashe Stadium.

The Spaniard reached deuce for the first time as she served in the second game of the second set, coming within a point of holding when a fan yelled, "Come on Serena, give her a game. It's her birthday."

Instead, Williams broke for a 2-0 lead, drawing a couple of boos in a romp that for a few apparently had started to seem like bullying of a helpless foe.

Williams said that compassion was not a consideration at any point, giving up a pity game not in her thoughts at all.

"You don't really think about it," Williams said. "You just think about winning the points and winning the games. That's all you think about. At least, I don't think about anything else. Maybe after the match. During, I just try to stay in the moment."

A few boos came when Williams held to 4-0 and Suarez Navarro drew huge cheers when she forced two break points on Williams in the fifth game.

There was a major groan when the Spaniard netted a forehand on a break point chance as Williams went on to hold, receive polite applause after doing so and a typical roar from a generally supportive crowd after she won the match.

Williams would not call the performance flawless.

"Of course not. I played good, though," she said. "I was just more focused than anything. I like to believe there's room for improvement."

Asked what errors she had made, Williams replied, "I'm not here to say what I did wrong. I think I definitely played well, but she also gave me some good points."

Li credits coach

Earlier in the day, Li has become China's first player to reach the US Open semi-finals, another breakthrough on the court for the woman who delivered Asia's first grand slam singles title at the 2011 French Open.

"I always try to be the first one," Li said. "Of course it was exciting. I was really proud of myself because it's the last grand slam of the year, but I'm still fighting a lot on the court to try my best."

The 31-year-old fifth seed from Wuhan fought back nervous feelings to defeat Russian 24th seed Ekaterina Makarova 6-4, 6-7, 6-2 in a Tuesday quarter-final at Arthur Ashe Stadium.

In some ways, the achievement is hers alone, taking the court alone in one-on-one battles with some of the other top players in the world.

But Li is helped by a crucial team of talent, including her former coach and practice partner, husband Jiang Shan, plus fitness trainer Alex Stober and coach Carlos Rodriguez, who began guiding her after Wimbledon last year.

Li credits Rodriguez, the former coach of retired star Justine Henin, with saving her marriage, because she had trouble balancing Jiang in a dual role as a coach who needed to criticise and a loving husband she needed for support.

"Carlos saved my marriage," Li said. "I don't know how it is for other women, but for me it's tough to find a balance between husband and coach."


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