NEW YORK: World number one Serena Williams fended off spirited Simona Halep on Wednesday, downing the fifth-seeded Romanian 6-2, 4-6, 6-3 to reach the US Open semi-finals.
Williams, seeking a record seventh US Open title and 23rd Grand Slam crown, fired 18 aces en route to the triumph, which set up a Thursday evening meeting with first-time Grand Slam semi-finalist Karolina Pliskova for a place in Saturday’s championship match.
But she made her task against 2014 French Open finalist Halep harder with 43 unforced errors and Halep, firing on all cylinders from the baseline took advantage.
The Romanian became the first player in the tournament to break Williams’s serve, and the first to take a set off the top seed.
After failing to convert any of a dozen break points in the 65-minute second set, Williams regained control in the third with a break for 3-1 and steamed home from there.
“I’m glad I got tested,” said Williams, who saw seven break point opportunities go by in the second game of the second set.
She had five more chances in the final game of the set, which went to deuce eight times before Halep closed it out on her fifth set point when Williams fired a backhand long.
“I think her level really picked up in the second, but I had some opportunities that I didn’t take,” she said. “So what I gather from that is I really could have played better in that second set and maybe had an opportunity to win in straights. If anything, that’s the biggest silver lining I take.”
She can also take heart from her ability to produce some massive serves when she needed them, especially after a sore right shoulder prevented her from even practicing her serve much in the build up to the tournament.
“I feel OK,” said Williams. “I’m not at 100 per cent, but I’m OK. Nothing to complain too much about.”
Halep was left regretting her inability to convert two break points in the opening game of the third set.
“(If) I could take that game, I think the story of the match would have been different,” said Halep. “I am a little bit disappointed that I had could not take the chances, but I’m also happy about the way I stayed there and played.”