Vinci reaches US Open semifinals as Serena-Venus looms
Serena and Venus Williams prepared for their hotly anticipated US Open quarter-finals showdown Tuesday while Italy's Roberta Vinci put herself in the winner's path, advancing to her first Grand Slam semi-final.
Vinci, ranked 43rd, advanced to the US Open semi-finals by downing France's 40th-ranked Kristina Mladenovic 6-3, 5-7, 6-4 at Arthur Ashe Stadium, setting the stage for the dramatic 27th matchup between the Williams sisters.
"I'm so happy to be in the semi-final, if I play Serena or Venus, it doesn't matter right now," Vinci said.
World number one Serena, who holds all four major trophies, is three wins from completing the first calendar Grand Slam since Steffi Graf in 1988 and matching Graf's career Open Era record of 22 singles titles, two shy of Australian Margaret Court's all-time mark.
Venus, the elder sister by two years at 35, will try to spoil Serena's historic run. Venus seeks her third US Open crown after 2000 and 2001, the 23rd seed hoping to add to a Slam trophy haul that also includes five Wimbledon titles, the most recent in 2008.
Vinci is 0-4 against Serena and 0-3 against Venus in her career.
She becomes the lowest-ranked Slam semi-finalist since 83rd-rated compatriot Flavia Pennetta at the 2013 US Open.
Serena owns a 15-11 edge in the sibling rivalry, including an 8-5 advantage in Grand Slam meetings. But at the US Open, they are level at 2-2. Venus beat Serena in the 2001 final but lost to her sister in the next year's final.
Serena has won six of their past seven meetings, the most recent two months ago at Wimbledon, while Venus won their most recent hardcourt match 13 months ago at a Montreal semi-final.
The Serena-Venus rivalry is the second-most contested at Grand Slam events in the Open Era, the 14 meetings second only to the 22 between Chris Evert and Martina Navratilova.
Vinci reached her first Grand Slam semi-final at age 32, having lost in 2012 and 2013 US Open quarter-finals.
"Amazing moment for me. It's unbelievable," Vinci said. "First semi-final in my career. I'm so happy. I don't have words to say."
Mladenovic, playing in her first Slam quarter-final at age 22, made 64 unforced errors and 11 double faults in failing to become the the first Frenchwoman in a US Open semi-final since Amelie Mauresmo in 2006.
Vinci broke in the second game of the match and held out to claim the first set. Vinci saved six break points in the second game of the second set and traded breaks twice before Mladenovic smashed a backhand winner to break in the 12th game and take the set.
Vinci successfully appealed a line call to erase a break in the fourth game of the third set and broke in the critical seventh game, which lasted more than 14 minutes and through 10 deuces before Mladenovic hit a forehand long on Vinci's fifth break point.
Vinci held twice more to secure the win after two hours and 32 minutes.
The impending Serena-Venus showdown was overshadowing all else at the US Open.
Either sister would become the oldest Grand Slam champion by winning the tournament. It would be the 70th career title for Serena and the 47th for Venus.
Venus is the oldest quarter-finalist at any Slam since Navratilova in 1994 at Wimbledon at age 37. She's the second-oldest quarter-finalist at the US Open in the Open Era (since 1968), about six months younger than Billie Jean King in 1979.
Three-time defending champion Serena, seeking an Open Era record seventh US Open crown overall, is on a 32-match Grand Slam win streak, having captured four Slams in a row and four matches in this New York run.
Serena is also on a 25-match US Open win streak, her last loss on the Flushing Meadows hardcourts coming to Aussie Samantha Stosur in the 2011 US Open final.
Serena owns three French Open titles and six trophies each from Wimbledon and the US and Australian Opens.
Serena has not exited the US Open before the semi-finals since a 2007 run to the last-eight while Venus is on her deepest US Open run since a 2010 semi-final appearance.
No women's top seed has fallen before the semi-finals since Dinara Safina in 2009 and no defending champion has lost in the quarter-finals since Stosur in 2012.
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