Serena Williams of the United States of America reacts after winning a game in the second set against Karolina Pliskova of the Czech Republic in a quarterfinal match on day nine of the 2018 U.S. Open tennis tournament at USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center.
Williams's 6-4 6-3 quarter-final win over Czech eighth seed Karolina Pliskova on Tuesday was her first over a top 10 ranked opponent since returning to the WTA Tour in March following the birth of her first child.
Defending champion Stephens is up first on Arthur Ashe Stadium, facing No. 19 seed Anastasija Sevastova in a rematch of Stephens' three-set victory in the same round at Flushing Meadows past year.
Two years on from being beaten by Pliskova in the last four of this tournament, 23-time grand slam singles champion Williams gained sweet revenge to book her place in the semi-finals.
She conceded two break points, on the second she believed to have drilled an ace, Pliskova rightly challenged and the American missed the second serving the double fault that put an end to her 8-game winning streak.
The six-time U.S. champion won eight games in a row - four at the end of the first and four at the start of the second - to help her secure victory in one hour 26 minutes.
"I felt so bad because everyone here was cheering, and I wasn't winning" Serena said.
"I really feel like right now I'm playing free", Williams said after the match.
Sloane Stephens talks dealing with the heat and being sick after her 6-2, 6-3 loss to Anastasija Sevastova in the quarterfinals.
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Williams plays Anastasija Sevastova in the semi-finals on Thursday and is the only major victor left in the draw.
That last comment brought laughter from the assembled reporters, given Sevastova's tendency to play drop shots and vary her angle of attack on a regular basis. A piercing backhand off Pliskova's serve set up advantage point for point for Williams but the Czech produced a cracking serve to level it back at deuce.
"To come this far, so fast", Williams told the fans afterward, "I'm just beginning, you guys". He's into the semifinals for the second year in a row, where he lost to top-ranked Rafael Nadal last year.
"The second set, she was just mixing the serve. She's just going for her shots".
After the match Williams said she had taken confidence from the backing of a partisan crowd, which included Billie Jean King, actor Michael Keaton and director Spike Lee. "So I thought, 'I gotta try harder.' So thank you (fans) so much".
The Pliskova match marks Serena's first Top-10 win of her comeback. I think she's still the strongest.
The most noticeable improvement in Pliskova's game since her 2016 semifinal shock upset over Williams is her movement around the court.
"She's 17, but she's not a player which should be 17", Pliskova said.