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Serena Williams gets another chance at Grand Slam history

Serena Williams reacts after defeating Elina Svitolina on Thursday in the U.S. Open semifinals.
Serena Williams reacts after defeating Elina Svitolina on Thursday in the U.S. Open semifinals.
(Charles Krupa / Associated Press)

Serena Williams’ coach, Patrick Mouratoglou, predicted Canadian teenager Bianca Andreescu would reach the U.S. Open women’s final. “And I think she’s going to be No. 1 soon,” he said. “I mean, not too soon, but in the future, because she has everything that’s needed to be No. 1. A lot of respect for her.”

But Mouratoglou didn’t predict what will happen when eighth-seeded Williams and No. 15 Andreescu play for the championship on Saturday at Arthur Ashe Stadium. It will be Williams’ fourth attempt to tie Margaret Court’s record of 24 Grand Slam singles titles following her defeats at Wimbledonthe last two years and her rancorous U.S. Open loss to Naomi Osaka last year. Williams lost in straight sets on all three occasions.

According to Mouratoglou, those efforts were undermined by Williams’ lack of fitness and not an inability to handle the pressure of equaling Court’s record. She’s fit now, he said, making this her best chance to win since she returned to competition after giving birth to her daughter Olympia two years ago.

Rafael Nadal defeated Matteo Berrettini 7-6 (6), 6-4, 6-1 victory at Arthur Ashe Stadium on Friday to advance to the U.S. Open final against Daniil Medvedev.

“She was in three finals because she’s the best competitor of all times, not because she was ready,” Mouratoglou said Friday. “You have to realize that to be able to deal with pressure you need to feel strong. If you feel weak or not as strong as you wish you would, it’s more difficult to beat the pressure.

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“When you don’t move well you can’t be as confident as you should be, because if your ‘A’ game doesn’t work, you don’t have any other option, and for me that’s what happened. I think it’s totally different situation now, because now she can move. If she needs to play the rally, she can play the rally. We have seen that I think a few times during the tournament. So there is no panic if she misses a bit more than usual. No problem. There are other options of play.”

Serena Williams returns a shot during her semifinal victory over Elina Svitolina at the U.S. Open.
Serena Williams returns a shot during her semifinal victory over Elina Svitolina at the U.S. Open.
(Associated Press)

Williams, who has won a tournament-leading 94% of her service games (51 of 54), has played two of the shortest matches here, a 44-minute romp over Wang Qiang in the quarterfinals and a one-hour dismissal of Maria Sharapova in the first round. She has played only one three-set match, losing the opener to fellow American Caty McNally in the second round before regrouping.

This will be the 33rd Grand Slam final for Williams, who won the first of her six titles here in 1999 — the year before first-time Slam finalist Andreescu was born. A win on Saturday would bring Williams a check for $3.85 million — the runner-up earns $1.9 million — and would move her past Chris Evert for the most U.S. Open singles wins at 102.

“I just have to go out there above all, most of all, just stay relaxed,” Williams said after her 6-3, 6-1 semifinal mastery of Elina Svitolina. “There’s so many different emotions in finals. It just brings out so many highs and lows, nerves and expectations. It’s a lot.”

Bianca Andreescu reacts after scoring a point against Belinda Bencic during the U.S. Open semifinals.
Bianca Andreescu reacts after scoring a point against Belinda Bencic during the U.S. Open semifinals.
(ASSOCIATED PRESS)

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Andreescu, 19, lost a set to American Taylor Townsend in the round of 16 and had to play more than two hours in each of her last two matches, as she rallied past Elise Mertens in the quarterfinals and came back from 2-5 in the second set to defeat Belinda Bencic in straight sets in the semifinals. Early-season wins in Auckland, New Zealand, and at Indian Wells have brought confidence to a game that brims with power and all-court capability.

Beating Williams is difficult, but it’s not impossible.

“For sure, the toughest ask she’s had this year in her young career. But she’s a warrior and a street fighter. She strives to compete,” said her coach, Sylvain Bruneau. “I strongly hope and am pretty confident she’s going to step in the arena [on Saturday] both feet in, and going at it. Obviously there is another player on the court who is going to have her say in this match, but I’m pretty sure Bianca is going to be able to go and will go in there with the right frame of mind.”

Etc.

Former USC standout Robert Farah teamed with fellow Colombian Juan Sebastian Cabal to win their second consecutive Grand Slam tournament men’s doubles title with a 6-4, 7-5 victory over Marcel Granollers of Spain and Horacio Zeballos of Argentina. Farah won two NCAA team championships at USC and shared an NCAA doubles title.

“We knew they are very good. They have been very good singles players and they are very good doubles players,” Farah said of the duo’s eighth-seeded opponents. “That’s a very tough combination to play against. To be able to come out the way we did and with the energy we did and to come through it is very rewarding for us and we’re very happy for it.”


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