NEW YORK, NY, USA - No.9 seed Venus Williams is through to her third Grand Slam semifinal of the year after edging through in a thrilling three-set victory over Petra Kvitova, 6-3, 3-6, 7-6(2).
The two veterans - the only former Grand Slam champions left standing in the draw - both had to overcome incredible adversity to renew their hotly-contested rivalry in the quarterfinals of the year’s last Grand Slam.
But as soon as they stepped out onto the court at Arthur Ashe Stadium, the feel-good story of the tournament turned into the fierce battle that everyone had come to expect from the pair.
“This match meant a lot to me, obviously, playing at home and of course it being a major,” Venus said in press afterwards. “It means a lot to her, too, coming back and being able to compete in this major and to prove obviously to herself that she could defeat anything no matter what's thrown at her. It was amazing to see her shine today.”
A tentative start riddled with early double faults from Venus handed the Czech the first break at 2-1, but in a match marked by surges and swings of momentum, the lead didn’t last for very long. Both players’ powerful strikes created quick points, and in no time Venus had them level again at 3-3.
Finally dialed in, Venus went on a tear, winning 20 of the last 25 points to close out the opening set - the first set that Kvitova has dropped all tournament long.
The Czech took charge early again in the second set, consolidating a break to start with a 3-0 lead. A brief delay during the closing of the roof temporarily halted her momentum, and on resumption Venus threw every shot she had at Kvitova. But despite creating five break point opportunities throughout the set, the American couldn’t capitalize on any - Kvitova put in a monumental effort to keep her at bay and come back from 15-40 down twice - the match went into a deciding set.
All of Venus and Kvitova’s previous five matches in their nine-year rivalry had gone to three sets - two of them ending in a third-set tiebreak - and this one was no different. The pair traded breaks and pulled every weapon out of their arsenal - Venus serve was firing as she injected more pace into her shots, while Kvitova responded with her powerful lefty forehand shots.
But in the tiebreak it was Venus who finally pulled ahead and put some distance between her and Kvitova. Venus’ groundstrokes painted the lines and Kvitova’s unforced errors helped the American close it out after a grueling two hours and 35 minutes.
“It was pretty close, pretty intense,” Kvitova said. “I think, the last couple of games in the third set - it was just about a few points. We played two-and-a-half hours, and I had my chances, kind of. I had a break in the third, but it wasn't about the breaks today.”
The victory not only sends Venus into her first US Open semifinal since 2010, but it also assures that Venus, currently ranked World No.9, also returns to the WTA Top 5 at the end of the fortnight for the first time since 2011. She could rise as high as No.2 should she win the title, depending on other results.
And, with Sloane Stephens awaiting in the semifinals, Venus victory also means that at least one American woman will reach the final. Stephens fought past No.16 seed Anastasija Sevastova earlier in the day to bring up the all-American matchup.
“It's been a great two weeks for American tennis,” Venus said. “Seeing all the American players in the draw and all of them advancing so deep and competing so well.
“All I have known all my life was great American players. So it's great to see this resurgence, and I hope it can continue. I think both [Stephens and I] had to go through a tiebreaker today. I think it's dramatic fashion and it's great to see both of us go through.”