Serena knocked out in Open semis
For the second year in a row, Serena Williams’ bid to make history ended with a shocking loss in the U.S. Open semifinals.
A seventh title at Flushing Meadows, which would have been an Open-era record, will have to wait. So will a 23rd Grand Slam championship, another record. And her 31/2-year reign at No. 1 in the WTA rankings is over, too, one week shy of what would have been yet another mark.
Undone by a half-dozen double-faults, including on match point, and dealing with an injured left knee that limited her movement, Williams was upset 6-2, 7-6 (5) by big-serving Karolina Pliskova of the Czech Republic on Thursday night.
“Karolina played great today. I think if she had played any less, then maybe I would have had a chance,” Williams said. “So I think I wasn’t at 100 percent, but I also think she played well. She deserved to win today.”
The 10th-seeded Pliskova began her on-court interview by blurting out that she couldn’t believe she’d eliminated Williams to earn a spot in her first major final. Then Pliskova changed course, saying: “I mean, actually, I do believe it. I always knew I have a chance to beat anyone if I’m playing my game.”
At the 2015 U.S. Open, Williams’ bid for a calendar-year Grand Slam ended when she lost in the semifinals to unseeded Roberta Vinci of Italy in one of the biggest surprises in tennis history. This one goes pretty high on the list, too.
This was the 33rd major semifinal of Williams’ career, and the first for Pliskova, who beat the 34-year-old American’s older sister Venus in the fourth round. Pliskova is only the fourth woman to beat both Williams siblings during the same Grand Slam tournament.
And to think: The 24-year-old Pliskova had never been past the third round in 17 previous appearances at majors.
“I had a goal today to beat Serena. That’s what I did,” Pliskova said. “I don’t care who is there in the final.”
Her opponent Saturday will be No. 2 Angelique Kerber or Caroline Wozniacki. Regardless, Kerber will move up one spot to No. 1 on Monday, ending Williams’ stay at the top after 186 consecutive weeks, exactly the same number that Steffi Graf compiled to set the record.
Williams, who refused to answer questions about the rankings, and Graf also share the mark for most Grand Slam titles since 1968, when professionals were first admitted to majors. And Williams remains even with Chris Evert with six U.S. Open trophies.
Pliskova, meanwhile, is now one victory from her first, and on Thursday night, she certainly looked the part of an up-and-comer with the strokes and demeanor to go far.
The temperature was in the low 80s, and the air was muggy and still, and Williams kept using the pleats of her black-and-pink skirt to wipe her sweaty palms between points. She flubbed shot after shot, 31 unforced errors in all.
Afterward, Williams dismissed the notion that she might have been fatigued from a grueling three-set quarterfinal against Simona Halep that concluded less than 22 hours before the semifinal started. Instead, Williams and her coach, Patrick Mouratoglou, pointed to the left leg that she repeatedly clutched at in the second set.