by Kevin Craig
Venus Williams defeated Coco Vandeweghe in the Australian Open semifinals on Thursday, 6-7(3), 6-2, 6-3, to help set up an all-Williams final. Venus will take on sister Serena in the final on Saturday after she easily knocked out Mirjana Lucic-Baroni in straight sets.
“It’s always very satisfying to be able to get through in such a big match against an opponent who was just on fire,” Venus said. “It means so much.”
The 36-year old Venus will take on Serena for the 28th time, and the ninth time in a major final. Serena currently leads in both departments, 16-11 overall and 6-2 in major finals. Venus will be going for her eighth major title and first since 2008, while Serena will be looking for her 23rd.
“She’s basically my world and my life and she means everything to me. I couldn’t be happier with these results, and for us both to be in the final is the biggest dream come true for us,” Serena said.
Against Vandeweghe, Venus got off to a bit of a slow start, as she faced four break points in her opening service game. She could only save the first three before getting broken, but was able to bounce back right away and break the big-hitting American. From there, each play settled into the match and found their rhythms, as no more break points were seen in the rest of the set.
In the first set tiebreak, the returner won the first five points, allowing Vandeweghe to take a 3-2 mini-break lead. The 25-year old American playing in her first major semifinal would eventually take the tiebreak 7-3, thanks to a five-point run.
“I’m versatile. I can adjust. I can do what I need to do to win a match,” Venus said. Adjust is exactly what she did as the rest of the match was a completely different story than the first set.
Venus battled back straight away with a no-nonsense mindset in the second set. Vandeweghe’s level of play that had been so impressive the entire tournament finally dropped, and Venus was able to break her twice in the set. Added onto the two breaks, Venus was able to save eight break points in the second set, allowing her to even up the match and take it to a decider.
In the third, Venus was once again able to break early to apply some scoreboard pressure on Vandeweghe. Once again, Vandeweghe had difficulty converting on Venus’ serve, as she missed out on two break points in her first service game. From there, Vandeweghe only won more than one point in a Venus service game once in three tries.
In the final game of the match, with Vandeweghe serving at 5-3, Venus had a look at four break points and the nerves in the building increased with every one that Vandeweghe saved. On the fourth attempt, though, Vandeweghe sent a backhand long and Venus had finally won and reached the Australian Open final.
Venus and Serena will meet in the final on Saturday and it will be one of the most anticipated matches on the women’s tour in a very long time.
“I just feel like no matter what happens, we’ve won. She’s been through a lot. I’ve been through a lot. A Williams is going to win the tournament,” Serena said.
by Kevin Craig
Serena Williams reached the semifinals of the French Open on Thursday after battling back from a set and a break down against Yulia Putintseva, winning 5-7, 6-4, 6-1.
Putintseva, who represents Kazakhstan and is currently the No. 60 player in the world, had been on a great run to reach the quarterfinals, beating the No. 12 seed Carla Suarez Navarro and the No. 28 seed Andrea Petkovic along the way.
This run may have been rather unexpected for the 21-year old Putintseva as she had lost three of her four previous matches coming into the tournament, including one to a player ranked outside of the Top 100.
On a chilly day with difficult conditions, Putintseva was able to put that to the side and continue her confident play in Paris, not letting the task of facing the 21-time major champion in Williams get to her.
“I feel like she gives 200 percent on every single point…she’s a fighter,” said Williams of Putintseva before the match began, and she was spot on with her statement.
In the early goings, the Kazakh looked confident and in charge as she fought through a deuce game in her first service game of the match before having a look at two break points in the next game. Putintseva capitalized on the second and held at love to consolidate for a 3-1 lead early on.
Williams was able to break back and appear to kill off the challenge from her opponent, as we have seen so many times before from Williams with her killer instinct, but this match was different. Putintseva fought hard, losing only one point in her next three service games, and broke in the 11th game of the set after fighting back from a 40-0 deficit before holding at love to close out the set.
The first set saw an enormous difference in the unforced error tally, as Williams hit 24 while Putinsteva only hit two.
The charge continued early in the second set as Putintseva was able to break in the first game, sending major warning bells throughout the tennis world that the No. 1 player was in trouble.
Those alarms were quickly silenced, however, as Williams rattled off the next four games to jump out to a 4-1 lead. Putintseva continued her tenacious fight, though, breaking back and getting the set to 4-4, where she had a look at two break points for a chance to serve for the match.
Williams was able to fight those off and used her experience and overall advantage in the skill department to break in the next game, completely diminishing the confidence of the 21-year old as she levelled the match at a set apiece, the dagger coming on a double fault from Putintseva while down set point.
The third set was a breeze for Williams as she felt little resistance from Putintseva, racing out to a 5-0 lead before eventually closing out the match with a 6-1 third set win.
Putintseva, despite the loss, was able to remain positive and is looking forward to the future.
“I had some great wins here. I won some really good matches. I’m really happy with that. I’m really happy with the level that I was playing during all of this tournament…I got a lot of experience now,” said Putintseva.
Williams, who always seems to be due for one massive scare during her journey to the final of a major, showed just how she has been able to rack up 21 major titles and hold on to the No. 1 ranking for 295 weeks.
“At one point I didn’t see the light at the end of the tunnel…She played unbelievable. I honestly didn’t think I was going to win, but somehow I did,” said Williams.
Her opponent in the semifinals will be the Cinderella story Kiki Bertens, who is making a lot of personal history this fortnight in Paris.
The Dutchwoman has been able to not only reach her first semifinal at a major, but also her first quarterfinal, will reach a new career high ranking of at least No. 27, and has clinched her spot on the Dutch team at the summer Olympics in Rio this summer.
Bertens has defeated the No. 3 seed Angelique Kerber, the No. 15 seed Madison Keys, the No. 29 seed Daria Kasatkina, and now the No. 8 seed Timea Bacsinsky after her straight sets win on Thursday.
Bertens, who is now on a 12-match win streak, was able to dispatch Bacsinsky 7-5, 6-2.