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US Open: Williams faces tough test

US Open: Williams faces tough test

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Angelique Kerber has served notice that Serena Williams will have to fight all the way to be crowned Women’s champion at the US Open. Both are overwhelming favourites to win their semi-finals – Williams 1/11, Kerber 20/49 – and set up a meeting in the final at Flushing Meadows on Saturday.

Williams survived a minor scare, drawing on all her experience to beat Simona Halep in a titanic struggle. The Romanian refused to be cowed into submission, fighting back to take the second set in the pair’s quarter-final. However, it was the American who prevailed 6 – 2, 4 – 6, 6 -3 to set up a semi-final meeting with tenth-seed Karolina Pliskova.

Whilst Novak Djokovic enjoyed rest days en route to the last four, Williams had to work to reach a comparative stage. Not that it was too tricky nor taxing on the shoulder injury which had dogged her leading into this tournament.

Prior to Halep, the world number one had lost just 25 games in the four previous rounds. She was, she said afterwards, “glad [she was] tested”, before praising her vanquished opponent. Crucially, Williams dredged the desire and will-to-win which all champions need.

Pliskova is in her first Grand Slam semi-final, thrashing Ana Konjuh 6 – 2, 6 – 2 in the last eight. Off the back of her Cincinnati Open win last month, the Czech is finding form at the right moment and is looking to join the select band of players who have accounted for both Williams sisters at the same tournament, having beaten Venus in the fourth round 4 – 6, 6 – 4, 7 – 6.

Kerber produced the best tennis of her career, she claimed, in winning the second set of her quarter-final against Roberta Vinci. Having 22 unforced errors in the opening set, following that with a 23-minute demolition of the Italian served notice that he is capable of matching Williams if they meet in the final.

There seemed little sign of what was to come when the German won the first set 7 – 5. Vinci’s athleticism served her well and pushed Kerber to the limit. What followed was incredible to watch; Vinci had no answer to Kerber’s barrage of 14 clean winners.

The women’s tournament threatens to be overshadowed by the Tennis Integrity Unit investigating Timea Bacsinszky’s 6 – 1, 6 – 1 win over Vitalia Diatchenko in the first round. The TIU is furious that the details of their inquiry were leaked, adding that until all the facts were known, neither player was guilty of match-fixing nor should they be considered such.

It’s a dark cloud on the horizon of a women’s competition which has shone for Serena Williams. The American has already passed Martina Navratilova’s record of 306 Grand Slam wins and in beating Simona Halep, passed Roger Federer’s record for men’s tennis. Winning on Saturday would take her clear of Steffi Graf with the pair tying on 22 Grand Slam tournament wins.

A procession? Far from it but few would begrudge this phenomenal tennis player being crowned queen of women’s tennis.

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