Serena into US Open semi-finals as champion Stephens exits

Anastasija Sevastova left of Latvia shakes hands with Sloane Stephens after Sevastova defeated Stephens during the quarterfinals of the U.S. Open tennis tournament Tuesday Sept. 4 2018 in New York

Pliskova, who seized the world number one ranking herself briefly previous year, said that even though Williams is still rebuilding her world ranking, she's playing more like her old number one self than a number 17.

The home favourite claimed eight games in a row to recover from an early break of serve in the opening set and secure a 6-4, 6-3 victory over No 8 seed Karolina Pliskova.

Williams entered the match as the tournament's No. 17 seed after being given a seeding boost by officials after her maternity leave.

In many ways, it felt like a full-circle moment when she did commentary for the Serena Williams-Venus Williams third-round match on Arthur Ashe - the site of one of her biggest career triumphs.

She's the only player remaining in the draw to have won a major title and remarkably she has now won 14 of her 15 Grand Slam matches since returning from giving birth to her first child.

While she gave up two straight games to Pliskova, and then narrowly dropped a third later on, Williams quickly finished her off to take the second set 6-3 and advance to the semis.

Sevastova first shot to fame in 2010 when she reached the semifinal of Monterrey Open, beating the then-world No. 9, Jelena Jankovic.

Serena Williams began her US Open quarter-final tentatively. "I think today I didn't play those points well at all, even at the end, in the second set".

"I want to just be able to get past the semis here", Williams said.

"She's one of the best players in the world", Pliskova said.

"Still long way to go, I think", the Latvian said. She clearly knows mine.

Williams already proved at Wimbledon that she is capable of the sort of dominant performances she has shown over the years, making all the way to the final at the All England Club before losing. The first time, Williams had arrived in NY in search of the calendar grand slam - an extraordinary feat last achieved by Steffi Graf in 1988.

Her last-16 match against Kanepi was the only time any of Williams' matches thus far have gone beyond two sets.

Williams did drop her serve once in the second, coughing up one of her five double faults on break point as Pliskova narrowed the gap to 4-1.

Serena Williams of the United States hits to Karolina Pliskova of Czech Republic in a quarter-final match on day nine of the 2018 U.S. Open tennis tournament at USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center. "It's been a few, couple, rough semis for me", Williams said. "I'm just on my way (back) on the tour and doing the best I can".

"It was a great match for me at the time", Pliskova says. Sevastova has gone three sets in three of her first four matches, including a roller-coaster fourth-round victory over seventh-seeded Elina Svitolina.

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